The benchmark S&P 500 (+0.2%) registered its second win of the week on Wednesday, settling near the top of its trading range, but activity was subdued with only 886.2 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor following the July Fourth holiday. The Nasdaq (+0.7%) outperformed while the Dow (unch) lagged, finishing just a tick below its unchanged mark. Also of note, the small-cap Russell 2000 underperformed, settling lower by 0.5%.
Investors got their hands on the minutes from the June 13-14 FOMC meeting on Wednesday afternoon, but the initial reaction was muted as the minutes did little to change the market's rate-hike expectations; the fed funds futures market still points to the December FOMC meeting as the most likely time for the next rate-hike announcement with an implied probability of 64.8%, which is slightly higher than Monday's reading of 62.2%.
In the minutes, Fed members seemed generally upbeat about economic activity and attributed the recent softness in inflation to idiosyncratic factors. In addition, Fed officials were divided on when to start unwinding the central bank's balance sheet; several preferred to start the process within a couple of months while others wanted to defer the decision until later in the year.
Looking ahead, inflation data, like the CPI Report and the average hourly earnings growth seen in the monthly employment reports, will take on an increasingly important role in guiding the market's thinking about when the Fed will next raise the target range for the fed funds rate and start reducing reinvestment of the Fed's securities holdings.
The Employment Situation Report for June (Briefing.com consensus 173,000), which includes average hourly earnings (Briefing.com consensus +0.3%), will be released on Friday morning at 8:30 ET.
In the equity market, the top-weighted technology sector (+1.0%) was able to reclaim all of Monday's slide on Wednesday, providing solid sector leadership from start to finish amid broad strength. Chipmakers showed notable strength, sending the PHLX Semiconductor Index higher by 2.1%, as did mega-cap names like Microsoft (MSFT 69.08, +0.91), Facebook (FB 150.34, +1.91), and Alphabet (GOOGL 932.26, +12.80).
Biotech names also had a solid showing, evidenced by the 1.4% increase in the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 315.29, +4.34), helping to keep the influential health care sector (+0.5%) near the top of the day's leaderboard. The financials (+0.2%) and industrials (+0.3%) spaces also finished in positive territory.
The seven laggards--consumer discretionary (-0.2%), energy (-1.3%), materials (-0.4%), consumer staples (-0.1%), utilities (-0.4%), telecom services (-0.4%), and real estate (-1.2%)--put up a good fight, but were ultimately no match for the technology, health care, financials, and industrials sectors, which represent around 60.0% of the broader market combined.
Crude oil weighed heavily on the energy sector, dropping 4.2% to $45.10/bbl, following reports that Russia will oppose any proposals to deepen the existing production-cut agreement. In addition, news that OPEC exports increased by 450,000 barrels per day month-over-month in June also acted as a bearish catalyst. The loss ended the commodity's longest bull-run in more than five years.
In the bond market, the 10-yr yield slipped two basis points to 2.33% while the 2-yr yield settled unchanged at 1.41%. Treasuries gave back their modest gains immediately following the release of the FOMC minutes, but eventually closed in the green near their best marks of the day.
Reviewing Wednesday's economic data, which was limited to the Factory Orders Report for May:
The Factory Orders Report for May showed a decrease of 0.8%, which is below the Briefing.com consensus of -0.5%. The April reading was revised to -0.3% (from -0.2%).
The key takeaway from the report is that order and shipments activity for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft were higher than first reported and will improve the expected contribution to Q2 GDP growth forecasts.
On Thursday, investors will receive a slew of economic reports, including the weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index at 7:00 ET, June Challenger Job Cuts at 7:30 ET, June ADP Employment Change (Briefing.com consensus 185,000) at 8:15 ET, the weekly Initial Claims Report (Briefing.com consensus 244,000) at 8:30 ET, May Trade Balance (Briefing.com consensus -$46.1 billion) at 8:30 ET, and June ISM Services (Briefing.com consensus 56.6) at 10:00 ET.