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Wed, Sep 18th, 2019
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Futures Market News and Commentary

U.S. Stock Indexes Settle Little Changed After the Fed Cuts Interest Rates

The S&P 500 Index ($SPX) on Wednesday closed up by +1.03 (+0.03%), the Dow Jones Industrials Index ($DOWI) closed up +36.28 (+0.13%), and the Nasdaq 100 Index ($IUXX) closed unchanged. U.S. stock indexes settled mostly higher Wednesday on stronger-than-expected U.S. housing data and after the Fed cut interest rates. A -12% slump in FedEx on Wednesday undercut the overall market and fueled concerns about an economic slowdown. FedEx tumbled after it cut its full-year EPS estimate to $11.00-$13.00 from a prior estimate of $14.73, citing a weakening global economy and reduced shipping demand. Middle East tensions remained high after the Saudi Arabian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Saturday's attacks on Saudi oil facilities were "unquestionably sponsored by Iran." The remarks may lead to escalation of the crisis if the Saudi Arabia and/or the U.S. retaliates against Iran for the attacks. A positive factor for stocks Wednesday was the action by the Fed to cut the fed funds target range by 25 bp to 1.75%-2.00% from 2.00%-2.25%. However, the Fed's new dot plot shows policy makers are split on further rate cuts. Five Fed members think the funds rate at the end of 2019 should be higher than it is after Wednesday's rate cut, five members wanted Wednesday's rate cut but are not projecting any more cuts, and seven members are projecting one more 25 bp rate cut by the end of the year. Upbeat comments Wednesday from Fed Chair Powell were also supportive for stocks when he said, "the economy has continued to do well, and the outlook is favorable" and that Fed rate cuts are to provide "insurance" against downside risks. Wednesday's U.S. housing data was supportive for stocks after Aug housing starts jumped +12.3% to a 12-year high of 1.364 million, stronger than expectations of +5.0% to 1.250 million. Also, Aug building permits unexpectedly rose +7.7% to a 12-1/4 year high of 1.419 million, stronger than expectations of -1.3% to 1.300 million. The VIX S&P 500 Volatility Index ($VIX) on Wednesday popped up to a 1-week high of 15.80% but then fell back and finished the day down -0.49 at 13.95%. The VIX continues to consolidate between the late-July 4-3/4 month low of 11.69% and the early-Aug 8-1/4 month high of 24.81%.
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