U.S. stocks edged higher Wednesday morning as investors await the minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting and look ahead to the first-quarter earnings season, which begins with Alcoa Inc.'s financial results after the closing bell. Minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's latest meeting are to be released at 2 p.m. EDT.
In morning trading Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) gained 100 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,976.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) added 7.81 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,084.14. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 29.93 points, or 0.61 percent, to 4,940.50.
Following its March meeting, the Fed dropped its officially “patient” stance, which means the central bank could lift interest rates from their current historic lows sometime in the next six months.
However, following Friday’s weak jobs report for March, market professionals will be analyzing the minutes for further clues as to whether the first rate hike is more likely to occur at the June or September FOMC meeting. “It will also be interesting to see whether the decision to drop the language that the Fed could be ‘patient’ in beginning to normalize monetary policy was unanimous,” Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note Wednesday.
Investors will be eyeing the energy sector Wednesday as shares of Royal Dutch Shell Plc (LON:RDSA) dropped more than 3 percent to $2,031.00 after the company announced it will buy natural gas company BG Group plc (LON:BG) for $70 billion. Following the announcement, shares of BG Group surged more than 33 percent to $1,212.50 in London.
Oil prices traded mostly lower Wednesday after U.S. crude stockpiles jumped by 12.2 million barrels last week, up sharply from analyst expectations for an increase of 3.4 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday.
The Energy Information Administration releases its U.S. oil inventories report Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT. U.S. crude stockpiles are expected to remain at a record high for the 13th consecutive week, the most at any time in at least 80 years.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, lost 2.3 percent to $52.71 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell 1.8 percent to $59.03 a barrel, for May 15 delivery, on the London ICE Futures Exchange.