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Wall Street Waits for Fed Decision     02/01 09:27

   Stocks are drifting on Wall Street Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's 
latest decision on interest rates.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are drifting on Wall Street Wednesday ahead of the 
Federal Reserve's latest decision on interest rates.

   The S&P 500 was 0.1% lower in early trading. The Dow Jones Industrial 
Average was down 129 points, or 0.4%, at 33,956, as of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, 
while the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower.

   The market is coming off a strong January, where stocks rose on hopes that 
cooling inflation could get the Federal Reserve to ease up on its barrage of 
hikes to interest rates that have rattled Wall Street.

   Later Wednesday afternoon, the Fed is expected to announce its latest 
increase, one that would be the smallest since March at 0.25 percentage points. 
Perhaps more important than that will be what the Fed says about where rates 
are heading next.

   Much of Wall Street is hoping the Fed may raise rates just one more time 
after Wednesday afternoon, before taking a pause and then possibly cutting 
rates toward the end of the year. Rate cuts can ease pressure on the economy 
and juice investment prices.

   So far, though, the Fed has been adamant that it plans no rate cuts until 
2024 at the earliest and wants to hold rates higher for longer to ensure it 
doesn't allow inflation to fester and reignite.

   Higher interest rates try to snuff out inflation by slowing the economy and 
dragging on prices for stocks and other investments. The Fed has already pulled 
its key overnight rate to its highest level since 2007, at a range of 4.25% to 
4.50%, up from virtually zero early last year.

   One area influencing expectations for the Fed is the job market, which has 
remained resilient despite all last year's rate hikes. While strength there 
helps workers, a worry is that it could lead to too-high gains in wages that 
give inflation more fuel.

   A report Wednesday suggested hiring may be slowing more than expected. 
Private payrolls rose by 106,000 in January, according to ADP. That's down from 
253,000 a month earlier, and it was well below the 170,000 that economists 
expected.

   Treasury yields fell immediately after the report, which could give the Fed 
cushion to be less harsh on interest rates. The two-year yield, which tends to 
track expectations for the Fed, fell to 4.18% from 4.21% late Tuesday. The 
10-year yield, which helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans, 
fell to 3.47% from 3.51%.

   More economic reports will arrive later in the morning, including readings 
on the strength of U.S. manufacturing and the number of job openings advertised 
in December. The more comprehensive monthly jobs report from the U.S. 
government for January will arrive on Friday.

   A lackluster earnings reporting season also continues on Wall Street, with 
more mixed profit reports arriving from big U.S. companies.

   Electronic Arts tumbled 12.1% after it gave forecasts for upcoming results 
that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Analysts said some gamers may be 
getting more selective given the softening economy.

   On the winning side was Advanced Micro Devices, which rose 5.9% even though 
its profit tumbled 98% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. Its results 
were better than analysts expected.

   Facebook parent Meta reports after the bell Wednesday, followed by Alphabet, 
Amazon and Apple on Thursday, as well as Ford and Starbucks.

   In overseas markets, European stocks were modestly higher.

   Data on Wednesday showed that that Europe's inflation rate dipped at the 
start of the year, giving some relief to consumers. But prices remain elevated, 
prompting a number of protests, and will likely press the European Central Bank 
into another interest rate hike Thursday.

   In Asia, stocks in Shanghai gained 0.9% after surveys showed Chinese factory 
activity increased in January but still is subdued amid weak global demand and 
COVID-19 outbreaks that disrupted business.

 
 
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