Dow hits record closing high, Treasury yields sink on dovish Fed

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. stocks surged to a sharply higher close on Wednesday and benchmark Treasury yields slipped to their lowest level since August after the Federal Reserve flagged the end of its tightening cycle and struck a dovish tone for the year ahead.

All three major U.S. stock indexes jumped to fresh closing highs for the year after the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) left its fed funds target rate unchanged at 5.25%-5.50%.

The Dow notched a record closing high, confirming the blue-chip industrial average has been in a bull market since Sept. 30, 2022, by common definition.

In its accompanying statement, the Fed acknowledged that inflation has eased and implied that the rate tightening cycle might be over. Its dot plot, which forecasts the potential path forward for monetary policy, hinted that lower borrowing costs could be in the cards in 2024.

“The Fed delivered an early holiday present this year,” said Greg Bassuk, CEO at AXS Investments in New York. “Investors are embracing change in Fed sentiment toward a more dovish stance. It really underscores the trade that investors have been making over the last few weeks; that rates are set to decline in the coming year.”

Economic data showed U.S. producer prices (PPI) were unchanged in November, further evidence that inflation continues to meander down toward the Fed’s average annual 2% target.

“Some of the factors we believe that drove this change in sentiment is this week’s CPI and PPI data showing more consistency in inflation’s downward trajectory,” Bassuk added. “This allowed the Fed to gain greater confidence that its hawkish moves have begun to achieve their objectives.”

In a busy week for central banks, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England will announce policy decisions on Thursday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 512.3 points, or 1.4%, to 37,090.24, the S&P 500 gained 63.39 points, or 1.37%, at 4,707.09 and the Nasdaq Composite added 200.57 points, or 1.38%, at 14,733.96.

European shares ended a subdued session with a nominal loss as investors largely avoided risky bets ahead of the Fed decision.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.06% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.22%.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.07%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.03% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.25%.

Treasury yields tumbled after the Fed decision, with yields on 10-year notes dropping to their lowest since August, and two-year yields, which reflect rate expectations, touching their weakest level since early June.

Benchmark 10-year notes rose 50/32 in price to yield 4.0183%, from 4.206% late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond rose 71/32 in price to yield 4.1795%, from 4.304% late on Tuesday.

The dollar reversed its gains against a basket of world currencies, dropping after the central bank projected interest rate cuts in 2024.

The dollar index fell 0.93%, with the euro up 0.81% to $1.0879.

The Japanese yen strengthened 1.72% versus the greenback at 142.99 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2624, up 0.50% on the day.

Oil prices bounced back after tumbling to near six-month lows on Tuesday in the wake of a larger-than-expected weekly withdrawal from U.S. crude storage and as an attack on a tanker in the Red Sea threatened Middle East oil supplies

U.S. crude rose 1.25% to settle at $69.47 per barrel, while Brent settled at $74.26 per barrel, up 1.39% on the day.

Gold jumped in opposition to the weakening greenback, breezing past the $2,000 per ounce level.

Spot gold added 2.2% to $2,023.86 an ounce.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additonal reporting by Rae Wee in Singapore and Alun John in London; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Richard Chang and Andrea Ricci)