FILE- In this May 10, 2018, file photo signs for the New York Stock Exchange hang above the trading floor. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 26. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Stocks hold steady as markets await Fed's interest-rate call

September 26, 2018 - 10:34 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes around the world held steady on Wednesday as markets awaited a Federal Reserve decision on interest rates scheduled for the afternoon.

Economists are nearly certain that the Fed will raise short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point, the third such increase this year. But investors are more interested in what the Fed and Chairman Jerome Powell say about what's coming next. Most investors expect a fourth rate increase in December with perhaps a few more in 2019, as the economy continues to strengthen.

Rates are still low, but investors worry a quick jump would unsettle markets and halt what's become the longest bull market for U.S. stocks on record.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 7 points, or 0.3 percent, at 2,923, as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 59, or 0.2 percent, to 26,551, and the Nasdaq composite rose 31 points, or 0.4 percent, to 8,039.

FED WATCH: The Federal Reserve has been raising rates from their record lows, when they were at basically zero following the 2008 financial crisis. High rates in the past have been the death knell for economic expansions and bull runs for stocks, but analysts say markets can continue to rise as long as this rise in rates is gradual and for the right reasons.

"If the sense is that we're overheating and inflation is a problem and will eat into corporate profits and a rise in interest rates will choke off growth, that will be a problem," said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen. "But if rates go up more slowly because the economy is doing better, it's not that big a deal."

YIELDS: Treasury yields have been climbing steadily this year as the strengthening economy bolstered expectations for rate increases by the Fed.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is close to its highest level since 2011, but it dipped on Wednesday morning to 3.08 percent from 3.10 percent late Tuesday.

The two-year Treasury yield, which more closely tracks movements by the Fed, held steady at 2.83 percent and is close to its highest level in a decade.

VOTING YES: Shares of SurveyMonkey's parent company, SVMK, surged in their first day of trading. After pricing its initial public offering of stock at $12 per share, SVMK jumped as high as $20.00 during morning trading. By midday, it was at $19.72, up 64.4 percent.

DRESSED DOWN: Cintas, which provides workers' uniforms, restroom supplies and other products to companies, had the sharpest loss in the S&P 500 despite reporting better earnings than analysts expected for the latest quarter. Growth in rentals fell short of some forecasts. Cintas lost 3.9 percent to $204.56.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Indexes in Europe were mostly steady ahead of the Fed's decision. France's CAC 40 added 0.5 percent, while Germany's DAX was virtually flat. Britain's FTSE 100 was also treading water.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 percent, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 1.2 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 57 cents to $71.71 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 48 cents to $80.78.

Gold dropped $6.60 to $1,198.50 per ounce.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.98 Japanese yen from 112.93 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1750 from $1.1767, and the British pound fell to $1.13177 from $1.3186.

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