Wall Street’s main indexes inched higher on Wednesday as investors parsed earnings reports and comments from Federal Reserve officials for clues on how long the U.S. central bank will keep interest rates high and eventually start cutting it.
Treasury yields have retreated sharply from their highs amid expectations that the Fed has reached the end of its rate-hike campaign, helping the S&P 500 (.SPX) and the Nasdaq (.IXIC) notch their longest streak of gains in two years on Tuesday.
Markets are now pricing in rate cuts as soon as in May, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool, with odds of a cut of at least 25 basis points having risen to nearly 49%, compared with about 41% a week earlier.
“There is an inherent optimism in capital markets because most investors are anticipating that the Fed will probably not raise interest rates anymore through the end of the year,” said Peter Andersen, founder of Andersen Capital Management in Boston.
“(This) can set the stage for a very strong rally as we finish up the fourth quarter.”
Still, cautious comments from several central bank officials over the past few days have kept investors on edge, with Fed Governor Michelle Bowman flagging the possibility of further rate hikes given the strength of the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, Fed Chair Jerome Powell did not comment on monetary policy in opening remarks to the U.S central bank statistics conference. The Fed chair is scheduled to speak at another conference on Thursday.
The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield edged lower to 4.5522%, coming further off the 5% level breached in October.