Written by ALEX VEIGA-AP Business Writer
(AP) — Stocks gave up early gains and ended mixed on Wall Street as strong showings by some tech companies were offset by losses elsewhere. Several companies including General Electric rose Wednesday after reporting solid earnings. Stocks lost momentum toward the end of the day as investors tuned in to a news conference by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
The Fed left its benchmark rate alone, as expected. The S&P 500 fell 2 points, or 0.1%, to 3,273. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 11 points, less than 0.1%, to 28,734. The Nasdaq rose 5 points, or 0.1%, to 9,275. Bond yields fell.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Major U.S. stock indexes edged higher in late-afternoon trading Wednesday, with gains in technology companies outweighing losses in several other sectors.
Stocks lost some momentum toward the end of the day as investors tuned into a news conference by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. His remarks came after the central bank announced it is leaving its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a low level, a move that was widely expected. The central bank lowered rates three times last year.
Strong quarterly reports from big companies, including Apple, Norfolk Southern and General Electric, helped lift the market.
Technology companies powered much of the market’s upward move. Industrial stocks also notched solid gains. Communication services, energy and household goods makers were among the decliners.
A report that Americans pulled back on signing contracts to buy homes last month dragged down homebuilder stocks.
Wall Street is in the middle of a busy week for corporate earnings. Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla will release earnings later Wednesday. Coca-Cola, UPS, Amazon and Visa will report results on Thursday. Caterpillar and Exxon Mobil will report results on Friday.
The deadly coronavirus is still a potential threat to the global economy, but Wall Street has managed to set aside those concerns, for now. The lockdown in China has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 0.2% as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 86 points, or 0.3%, to 28,809. The Nasdaq climbed 0.3%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.4%.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.59% from 1.64% late Tuesday.
European markets finished higher. Asian markets were mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 2.8% after its markets reopened from Lunar New Year holidays, while other Chinese markets remained closed.
THE FED SPEAKS: The central bank said it would hold short-term rates in a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, far below levels that have been typical during previous expansions. Powell and other Fed officials have indicated that they see that range as low enough to support faster growth and hiring.
Last year, the Fed cut its benchmark interest rate three times after having raised it four times in 2018. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell credits those rate cuts with revitalizing the housing market, which had stumbled early last year, and offsetting some of the drag from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
HOLIDAY CRISP: Apple rose 3% after a strong holiday season helped propel profits beyond Wall Street forecasts. The iPhone maker’s surprisingly good report marks a turnaround from a year ago when sales of its marquee product appeared to be sliding. The company is also seeing gains in sales of smartwatches, digital services and wireless earbuds.
FRESH SCENT: L Brands skyrocketed 13% following reports that the owner of Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret could change leadership and sell off some of its parts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Leslie Wexner, who has served as CEO for more than five decades, is in talks to step down.
It also said the company is considering a full or partial sale of its lingerie business.
ON TRACK: Norfolk Southern climbed 5.6% after the railroad reported surprisingly good fourth-quarter profits on cost cuts. The railroad industry has been experiencing weak demand for freight hauling and the company is trying to operate on a tighter schedule and move more freight with fewer people.
Union Pacific rose 1.7% and CSX climbed 2.1%.
TAKING FLIGHT: General Electric surged 10.1% after a strong showing from its aviation business pushed profits above expectations.
RED FLAG: The National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index fell 4.9% last month. The index, which measures the numbers of signed home purchase contracts, is an indicator of potential completed sales.
Homebuilders slumped following the weak housing report. PulteGroup fell 1.7% and Hovnanian shed 3.4%.