The S&P 500 ended a choppy session slightly lower on Wednesday as losses in technology shares weighed down the index even after the U.S. Federal Reserve issued a statement that cemented expectations interest rates would stay near zero for a prolonged period. The TSX largely followed the same pattern, ending lower after a mixed session that saw a big jump in crude oil prices.
The benchmark U.S. index initially extended gains and the Dow briefly gained more than 1% in afternoon trading after the Fed in its policy statement kept rates near zero and promised to keep them near there until inflation is on track to “moderately exceed” the U.S. central bank’s 2% inflation target “for some time.”
New economic projections released with the policy statement showed most policymakers see interest rates on hold through at least 2023.
But the market lost ground heading into the close, led by losses in technology shares.
“The Fed is going to be very supportive of the economy and Powell wants Congress to be more stimulative,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York, New York. It’s a worry congress isn’t being supportive."
The central bank’s two-day meeting is its first under a newly adopted framework that promises to shoot for inflation above 2% to make up for periods where it runs below that target.
Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.17 points, or 0.14%, to 28,033.77, the S&P 500 lost 15.62 points, or 0.46%, to 3,385.58 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 139.86 points, or 1.25%, to 11,050.47.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed down 135.61 points, or 0.83%, at 16,295.66. The energy sector gained 1.09%, with many oil and gas stocks among the top gainers of the day in the Composite; Vermilion Energy rose 11.1%, Crescent Point Energy 7.2% and Cenovus Energy 6.3%. Bombardier, no longer in the Canadian benchmark index, rose 6.1% after striking a deal to sell its rail business to Alstom - albeit at a lower price than originally envisioned.
The pullback in tech names spilled over into this side of the border, with Shopify losing 4.9%.
Oil prices jumped more than 4%, following a drawdown in U.S. crude and gasoline inventories and as Hurricane Sally forced a swath of U.S. offshore production to shut.
Brent crude settled at $42.22 a barrel, up $1.69, or 4.2%. U.S. crude finished $1.88, or 4.9%.at $40.16 a barrel.
U.S. crude stocks fell 4.4 million barrels last week to 496 million barrels, their lowest since April, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.3 million-barrel rise, [EIA/S]
U.S. gasoline stocks fell 400,000 barrels, the EIA said, more than double the draw forecast, while refining utilization rates ticked up 4 percentage points.
“Today’s strong gains were largely attributable to bullish crude guidance out of the EIA release,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.
“The bulk of the (crude) stock decline was driven by an unexpectedly large upswing in U.S. refinery activity led by the Gulf Coast,” he said.
Sally, which made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane, also boosted oil prices as more than a quarter of offshore output shut due to the storm.
Roughly 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of offshore crude oil production was taken offline in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Interior Department, roughly a third of the shut-ins caused by Hurricane Laura, which landed farther west in August.
Read more: Stocks that saw action Wednesday - and why
Reuters, with files from Darcy Keith of The Globe and Mail
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