U.S. stock indexes were up and down Thursday but ended mixed, as bond yields recovered some of their sharp losses from the prior day. Stock markets around the world rallied.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 3.9 points, about 0.2 percent, at 2,381.4.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 15.6 points, about 0.07 percent, to 20,934.6. The Nasdaq, however, gained 0.7 point, about 0.01 percent, to 5,900.8.
BOND YIELDS: U.S. Treasury yields recovered some of their losses from the prior day. At the close, the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.522 percent from 2.50 percent late Wednesday. It had plunged by 0.11 percentage points the prior day after the Federal Reserve dashed speculation that it may become more aggressive in raising rates.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude was down 2 cents at $48.84 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 4 cents to $51.77.
U.S. RATE HIKE: The central bank increased short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point, as was widely expected, but also said that it continues to expect to raise rates a total of three times this year. Some investors had begun to speculate that four increases may be possible given how much the economy and inflation have picked up.
A MEASURED PACE: The Fed is hoping to lift interest rates off their record lows, where they stayed for seven years following the 2008 financial crisis.
Historically, rising rates were a scary thing for stock investors because they can slow economic growth and corporate profits. But the Fed’s three small rate increases since late 2015 haven’t dented enthusiasm for stocks, which are close to record highs.
ANALYST’S TAKE: That’s because the pace is likely to be very gradual, and rates are still very low by historical measures, said analyst Rich Taylor, client portfolio manager at American Century. “We are in the beginning stages of a re-normalization of interest rates,” Taylor said. “A 2.5 percent yield on a 10-year note is not a normal yield. It’s still a DEFCON 4, almost emergency-level rate.”
EUROPEAN OPTIMISM: Stock markets across the Atlantic rose. Investors had been nervous about Wednesday’s Dutch election, where politicians had railed against the European Union and immigration. After last summer’s U.K. vote to exit the European Union, investors wondered whether the Dutch election and others scheduled later in the year on the continent could eventually lead the European Union to break apart.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party won a parliamentary election victory over anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders. Wilders campaigned on pledges to close borders to migrants from Muslim nations, close mosques, ban the Quran and take the Netherlands out of the EU.