Stock futures inch higher following Fed decision to aggressively wind down asset purchases

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is seen delivering remarks on screens as a trader works on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, December 15, 2021.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

U.S. stock futures were slightly higher Wednesday evening after the Federal Reserve signaled it would be aggressive on tapering and sees three interest rate hikes in 2022.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.19%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.23% and 0.3%, respectively.

Stocks traded in negative territory throughout the regular session Wednesday and turned higher ahead of Fed chair Jerome Powell’s press conference in the afternoon at the conclusion of the two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Dow added 383 points, or 1.08%. The S&P 500 rose 1.63% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 2.15%.

“It appears that the Fed had successfully communicated this news ahead of time and although the stock market moved higher during the press-conference, the sectors leading the market higher (like utilities and healthcare) are both very defensive sectors and indicate some concern about the future path of the economy,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.

Health-care stocks UnitedHealth and Amgen gained ground Wednesday, rising 3.1% and 2.6%, respectively.

The Fed will begin reducing the pace of its asset purchases in January and buy just $60 billion of bonds each month going forward, compared to $90 billion in the month of December. That decision follows recent inflation data showing a 6.8% surge in November, which is higher than expected and the fastest rate since 1982.

“The notion that elevated inflation levels would be transitory has finally been thrown out the window by the Fed and the latest policy adjustments are reflective of a committee that doesn’t want to miss the next train leaving the station,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management.

More economic data is due out Thursday, including housing starts and jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Adobe and Accenture are scheduled to report quarterly earnings before the opening bell. FedEx and Rivian will report after the bell.

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