Stocks turned in impressive gains on Wednesday, sending the benchmark S&P 500 to a fresh record high following an early release of minutes from the last Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting.
The S&P 500 closed at 1587.73, up 19.12 points or 1.2 per cent – marking its biggest one-day gain in more than a month and putting it some 20 points above its 2007 peak.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average also moved deeper into record-high territory. It closed at 14,802.24, up 128.78 points or 0.9 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,534.91, up 50.86 points or 0.4 per cent.
The gains followed the release of Fed minutes, originally scheduled to be sent out in the afternoon, as usual, but released before markets opened because they had been inadvertently distributed to some recipients a day early.
The minutes contained few surprises, though they showed that Fed members continued to debate the risks and effectiveness of stimulus policy. Some members believe quantitative easing – or buying bonds – should stop by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Chinese data on imports provided a pleasant surprise: Imports jumped more than 14 per cent over last year, smashing expectations and pointing to stronger domestic demand.
Within the S&P 500, technology stocks showed the biggest gains, rising 1.8 per cent. Health-care stocks rose 1.7 per cent and financials rose 1.2 per cent.
Within Canada's benchmark index, materials dragged on the index's performance, falling 2.9 per cent after the price of gold retreated sharply.
Gold fell to $1,558.30 (U.S.) an ounce, down $28.40, after Cyprus said it would sell some of its gold holdings to help pay for a bailout. As well, Goldman Sachs lowered its estimate on the price of gold for this year and next. The investment bank cut its three-month price target to $1,530 (U.S.) an ounce from $1,615.
Gold producers suffered. The NYSE Arca Gold Bugs index fell 3.8 per cent. In particular, Barrick Gold Corp. fell 8.7 per cent after a Chilean court halted its Pascua-Lama project following an injunction filed by indigenous communities.