U.S. stocks closed slightly lower Wednesday, as sharp declines in airline stocks offset the afternoon’s gains. The latest minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve revealed the central bank ruled out June as a timetable for a hike in interest rates, sending the S&P 500 to an intraday record high of 2,134.72 in afternoon trading.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) dropped 26.99 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 18,285. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) dipped 1.98 points, or 0.09 percent, to end at 2,126. However, the Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) added 1.71 points, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 5,072.
Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s April meeting revealed the central bank policy makers view sluggish growth during the first three months of 2015 were due to "transitory" factors that will subside, such as declines in energy prices. The Fed kept interest rates at historic lows following its two-day policy meeting on April 28-29 after the U.S. economy grew slower than expected in the first quarter.
Since the Fed’s last meeting, the U.S. economy created more-than-expected jobs in April, rebounding following a sharp hiring downturn in March.
“The U.S. economy today seems strong enough to warrant something other than crisis-level interest rates,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “There’s enough evidence for the Federal Reserve to lift rates come September.”
Market professionals are looking ahead to Thursday’s economic calendar, which includes weekly jobless claims, or the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment, due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000 for the week ended May 9, hovering around a 15-year lows, the U.S. Labor Department said last week.
Economists forecast jobless claims to rise 7,000 to 271,000 for the week ended May 16, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Notable companies reporting earnings after the closing bell Wednesday include cloud computing company Salesforce.com Inc. and retailer L Brands Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) was among the largest decliners in the Dow Wednesday, falling 0.7 percent, after the world's largest retailer posted earnings and revenue this week that missed Wall Street forecasts, hurt by a stronger U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, Dow component JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) lost 0.8 percent.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average fell nearly 2 percent Wednesday, as airline stocks tumbled across the board, led mostly by a 9 percent decline from Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV). The Dallas company announced this week it expects passenger revenue per available seat mile to fall 3 percent in the second quarter.
Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL) dropped 10 percent, while American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ:AAL) tumbled nearly 9 percent to trade as low as $42.97, below the stock’s 200-day moving average. Meanwhile, JetBlue Airways Corporation (NASDAQ:JBLU) and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) lost 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, Shares of Etsy Inc. (NASDAQ:ETSY) plunged nearly 18 percent to close at $17.25 Wednesday, a day after the online crafts marketplace posted a wider-than-expected loss in the most recent quarter.