US stocks flat as Fed minutes cautious on rate hikes

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NEW YORK: US stocks on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) recovered from early losses to finish little-changed as Federal Reserve meeting minutes suggested it would wait longer before raising interest rates.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.73 points (0.10 percent) to 18,029.85.
The broad-based S&P 500 lost a scant 0.66 (0.03 percent) at 2,099.68, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 7.10 (0.14 percent) to 4,906.36.

Minutes from the Fed’s January monetary policy board meeting showed many members were concerned about moving too soon on rate hikes and stifling economic growth.

The minutes are “generally indicating that the interest rates are going to remain low maybe for longer,” said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management.

Dow member ExxonMobil fell 2.2 percent after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway reported it had sold more than 41 million shares of the petroleum giant in the fourth quarter of last year.

The oil giant also said that four workers at a California oil refinery suffered minor injuries following an explosion at the plant.

Other petroleum stocks also dropped as oil prices fell. ConocoPhillips lost 2.5 percent and Anadarko Petroleum shed 2.0 percent.

Virgin America jumped 4.4 percent after fourth-quarter earnings translated to $1.16 per share, much above the 80 cents projected by Wall Street analysts for the airline.

The results lifted other US carriers. American Airlines rose 2.7 percent, Delta Air Lines gained 1.3 percent and United Continental tacked on 2.8 percent.

Health technology group Boston Scientific jumped 12.4 percent after it announced it would pay a less-than-expected $600 million to Johnson & Johnson to settle litigation over Boston Scientific’s takeover of Guidant in 2005.

Johnson & Johnson and Guidant were already in merger talks when Boston Scientific’s offer broke up that deal.

Fossil Group, a maker of sunglasses and other fashion accessories, sank 15.7 percent as it projected earnings well below analyst expectations. The company said earnings per share for 2015 would be $5.45-$6.05, much below the $7.52 seen by the market.

Bond prices rose, helped by the dovish Fed minutes. The yield on the 10-year US
Treasury fell to 2.08 percent from 2.14 percent Tuesday, while the 30-year fell to 2.71 percent from 2.73 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

AFP

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