US stock indexes mostly higher ahead of Fed policy update

Major U.S. stock indexes edged mostly higher in afternoon trading Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest announcement on interest rate policy.

The central bank was expected to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged and likely signal that it expects rates to remain low well into next year, despite a robust job market. The Fed lowered interest rates three times this year in a bid to shield the U.S. economy from slowing global growth and the fallout of U.S. trade conflicts.

Investors were also waiting for signs of progress in the trade talks between the U.S. and China this week in hopes that both sides can avert a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods that include phones, laptops and other popular products. The new tariffs are scheduled to take effect Sunday and would mark an escalation in the trade war as the world’s two largest economies continue pushing for a deal.

Reports have suggested that the new tariffs could be delayed. Tension over the next move has made for choppy trading this week that has pushed the major indexes lower.

Technology and industrial stocks led the gains. Skyworks Solutions climbed 4.3% and Parker-Hannifin rose 2%.

Real estate and energy companies lagged the market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.81% from 1.83% late Tuesday.

Some companies were making big moves after releasing earnings reports. Ollie’s Bargain Outlet surged 14.4% after reporting surprisingly good third-quarter profit and revenue. GameStop plunged 17.5% after issuing a surprising loss and cutting its profit forecast.

Home Depot dropped 1.7% after giving investors a weak sales forecast.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.1% as of 1:33 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30 points, or 0.1%, to 27,851. The Nasdaq rose 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.2%. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stock indexes in Europe were broadly higher.

FED WATCH: Investors will be listening for hints about how the central bank will shape its interest rate policy in 2020. The Fed reversed course in 2019 and cut rates three times to help support an economy threatened by trade disputes and slower growth. Many economists have said they think sluggish growth will even compel the Fed to cut rates at least once next year.

LOW GAS: Chevron fell 1.2% after the energy company warned investors about a potential charge of up to $11 billion because of lower long-term prices for oil and natural gas. The huge fourth-quarter write-down underscores the challenge posed by rising production that has prevented energy prices from increasing sharply during a time of increasing global demand.

NOT A GOOD LOOK: Shares in American Eagle Outfitters slumped 6.2% after the clothing chain reported third-quarter results that were largely in line with Wall Street’s expectations, but noted it saw softer demand for certain apparel categories.


AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

Alex Veiga, The Associated Press