Stocks Nearly Flat As Fed Announcement Looms

With traders looking ahead to this afternoon’s monetary policy announcement by the Federal Reserve, stocks are showing a lack of direction in morning trading on Wednesday. The choppy trading comes after the major averages reached new record closing highs in the previous session.

Currently, the major averages are nearly unchanged, showing moves of less than a tenth of a percent. While the Nasdaq is down 2.80 points at 6,458.52, the Dow is up 5.45 points at 22,376.25 and the S&P 500 is up 0.75 points at 2,507.40.

Traders seem reluctant to make any significant moves ahead of the Fed announcement, which is due at 2 pm ET and followed by a press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen at 2:30 pm ET.

The Fed is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged, although traders will pay close attention to the accompanying statement for clues about the outlook for policy.

The statement may offer details on how the central bank plans to start shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

Meanwhile, traders have largely shrugged off a report from the National Association of Realtors showing an unexpected decrease in existing home sales in the month of August.

NAR said existing home sales slumped by 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 5.35 million in August after tumbling by 1.3 percent to a rate of 5.44 million in July.

The continued decrease surprised economists, who had expected existing home sales to edge up to an annual rate of 5.46 million.

With the unexpected decrease, existing home sales fell to their lowest annual rate since hitting 5.34 million last August.

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Biotechnology stocks are seeing considerable strength, however, with the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index climbing by 1.5 percent.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY) is posting a substantial gain after the biopharmaceutical company reported positive trial results for its treatment of a rare genetic disease.

Natural gas, gold, and transportation stocks have also moved to the upside on the day, while some weakness visible among computer hardware and semiconductor stocks.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a lackluster performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index dipped by 0.1 percent.

The major European markets have also shown a lack of direction on the day. While the…

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