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Wall Street stocks greet aggressive Fed rate hike

·4-min read

Wall Street stocks welcomed Wednesday's aggressive moves by the Federal Reserve to counter inflation, while European equities also gained following an emergency central bank meeting to address fallout from monetary tightening.

The US central bank raised the benchmark borrowing rate by 0.75 percentage points, bigger than the telegraphed 0.5-percentage-point increase after economic data in recent days showed inflation strengthening and consumer confidence weakening.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed has the "tools" and "resolve" to do what it takes to lower inflation from the highest level in more than 40 years, noting that the central bank could hike the benchmark interest rate by another 0.75 percentage points in July.

Powell emphasized that the Fed was not trying to induce a recession, but that aggressive measures were needed to counter inflation.

Stocks climbed after the Fed decision, strengthening somewhat during the news conference. The S&P 500, which tumbled into a "bear market" earlier this week, finished up 1.5 percent.

However, stocks also rallied after the Fed raised interest rates in May, only to weaken substantially in subsequent sessions.

"The market is getting comfortable with the idea that the Fed is now starting to take the inflation situation very seriously," said Tom Cahill of Ventura Wealth Management, who nonetheless expressed skepticism that the Fed could achieve a "soft landing."

Data released Wednesday showed US retail sales declined by 0.3 percent in May, confounding analysts who had expected a modest rise.

"These numbers were worse than expected and point to a US economy that appears to be weaker than thought," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

Wells Fargo economist Jay Bryson shifted his outlook from an economic soft landing to a "mild recession starting in mid-2023," noting signs that inflation is becoming "increasingly entrenched in the economy" and cautioning that higher interest rates will curtail some spending.

- Emergency meeting -

Earlier, Frankfurt, London and Paris all rallied as investors were reassured by news of an emergency European Central Bank meeting.

The ECB said after its surprise meeting that it would use "flexibility" to ease stress on sovereign debt markets and design a new instrument to ward off a fresh crisis in the eurozone.

The borrowing costs of some eurozone countries have risen faster than those of others as the ECB tightens its monetary policy. The bank has vowed to prevent such "fragmentation," which occurred during the eurozone debt crisis a decade ago.

Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson called the announcement "somewhat underwhelming" and did not merit a special meeting.

Earlier, Wilson had said the emergency meeting "smacks of panic and a lack of control -- but the market is happy to see it happen."

The ECB is due to raise eurozone interest rates and end its massive bond-buying stimulus program in July.

Asian stock markets closed mixed Wednesday with investors on edge over the looming Fed decision that has taken on greater significance since forecast-busting US inflation recently sent shockwaves through world markets.

- Key figures at around 2030 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 30,668.53 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 1.5 percent at 3,789.99 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 2.5 percent at 11,099.15 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.2 percent at 7,273.41 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 1.4 percent at 13,485.29 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.4 percent at 6,030.13 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.6 percent at 3,532.32 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.1 percent at 26,326.16 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.1 percent at 21,308.21 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,305.41 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0457 from $1.0416 late Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2181 from $1.1997

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.80 pence from 86.83 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 133.69 yen from 135.47 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.2 percent at $118.51 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.0 percent at $115.31 per barrel

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