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Stocks slip after Fed’s tiny hike in the interest rate

Trader Michael Conlon works on the floor of

Trader Michael Conlon works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

After wobbling between gains and losses following the Fed’s announcement of an interest-rate increase, stocks fell Wednesday with the Dow Jones industrial average giving back some of its gains this week.

ON WALL STREET: At the close of trading, the Dow was down 118.7 points, about 0.6 percent, at 19,792.5. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was off 18.4 points, about 0.8 percent, at 2,253.3. The Nasdaq composite dropped 27.2 points, about 0.5 percent, to 5,436.7.

MAKING MOVES: High-dividend utilities and real estate companies, which would stand to lose more than other companies from rising interest rates, fell more than the rest of the market. Higher bond yields make those stocks less attractive to investors seeking income.

Banks, which would benefit from higher rates since they can charge more to lend money, held up better than other sectors. Goldman Sachs gained $1.38 to close at $239.93.

OIL PRICES: As markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude was down $2.01 at $51.93 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, the price of Brent crude, a standard for pricing international oil, was down $1.90 at $53.92 a barrel. Exxon Mobil Corp. lost $2 to close at $90.58.

FED CUES ON STIMULUS: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that the economy doesn’t need fiscal stimulus from the incoming Trump administration.

Tax cuts and infrastructure spending being championed by Trump would in theory generate stronger growth by increasing the budget deficits. It’s the kind of fiscal support that both Yellen and her Fed predecessor, Ben Bernanke, called for in the past.

But Yellen said Wednesday at a news conference that such policies would be unlikely to maximize employment, since the unemployment rate is now at 4.6 percent, slightly below the Fed’s own long-term target.

“I believe my predecessor and I called for fiscal stimulus when the unemployment rate was substantially higher than it is now,” Yellen said.

The Fed chair emphasized that she was not providing advice or guidance to the incoming Trump administration with her statement.

Yellen downplayed the expectations that Donald Trump’s presidential victory could lead to faster rate hikes.

Median projections released after the Fed meeting that ended Wednesday indicate that Fed officials expect three rate hikes in 2017, up from two increases in the federal funds rate in their prior quarterly projections.

Yellen attributed the increase to the 4.6 percent unemployment rate and possibly some changes in federal budget policy beginning next year, although she emphasized that any changes to the projections were “modest.”

“This is a very modest adjustment in the path of the federal funds rate,” Yellen said.

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