Ridgway Record

Stocks rise on Wall Street, adding to its strong January

- By Stan Choe AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are ticking higher on Wall Street Tuesday ahead of what many investors hope will be one of the Federal Reserve's last economy-shaking hikes to interest rates for a while.

The S&P 500 was 0.5% higher and on pace to close out its third winning month in the last four. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 63 points, or 0.2%, at 33,777, as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, and the

Nasdaq composite was 0.7% higher.

Markets got a boost after a report showed that growth for U.S. workers' pay and benefits slowed during the end of 2022. While that's frustratin­g for people trying to keep up with soaring prices for eggs and other groceries, markets see it as an encouragin­g sign of easing pressure on inflation.

With the pace of inflation cooling since the summer, virtually all of Wall Street expects the Federal Reserve on Wednesday to announce its smallest increase to interest rates since March, at 0.25 percentage points. That would be the latest stepdown after it pushed through four straight increases of 0.75 points and then a hike of 0.50 points.

Such moves try to stamp out inflation by intentiona­lly slowing the economy and dragging down on prices for stocks and other investment­s. The worry is that too-high rates would cause a severe recession and drop-off in corporate profits.

Such worries, combined with hopes for an easier Fed, have led to sharp swings in markets recently. They've hit not only day-to-day but also hour-to-hour. Analysts say much of this past month's gains has been more about improving sentiment among investors than any big improvemen­t in the economy or profits.

With seemingly everyone on the same page about what the Fed will do on Wednesday, the big question is what comes afterwards. The Fed has so far pledged to keep rates higher for longer to ensure inflation is truly defeated. Markets, meanwhile, are holding out hope that just one more small increase is on the way and that cuts to rates could follow late in the year.

Other reports on the economy Tuesday came in lower than expected, which could give the Federal Reserve leeway to be less harsh on rates. A measure of confidence among consumers weakened in January, when economists were expecting it to stay flat. And a measure of business activity in the Midwest showed more weakness than expected for January.

Treasury yields fell immediatel­y after the release of the report on employment costs, before paring their losses. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set rates for mortgages and other loans, was holding steady at 3.54%. The two-year yield, which moves more on expectatio­ns for the Fed, was steady at 4.24%.

Earnings reporting season is also approachin­g top gear, with McDonald's and other big companies headlining the day. They offered a mixed picture, much as reports have so far this reporting season.

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