Stocks finished higher Wednesday, with all three major U.S. benchmarks touching record levels. The S&P 500 eclipsed the 3,000 mark for the first time in intraday trading after perceived dovish comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell bolstered the case for a July rate cut. Powell suggested to Congress that the central bank is prepared to “act as appropriate” to sustain the U.S. economic expansion amid “crosscurrents,” such as trade concerns and slowing global growth. The Dow climbed 76 points, paring a nearly 200-point gain that had propelled the index to a record high earlier in the session. The S&P 500 advanced 0.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.8%, closing at an all-time high.
The minutes from the Fed’s June policy meeting also garnered attention, with “several” policymakers judging monetary easing would be warranted if uncertainties and downside risks continued to pressure the economic forecast. Treasuries finished mixed, with the yield curve steepening following Powell’s testimony. The yield on the 10-year note finished unchanged at 2.06%, while the yield on the more Fed-sensitive two-year note slid eight basis points to 1.83%.
Eight of 11 S&P 500 sectors closed in positive territory. Energy shares paced gains, with oil prices surging to a seven-week high. WTI crude jumped 4.5% to $60.43/barrel following a larger-than-anticipated drawdown in U.S. inventories and rig evacuation in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a tropical storm. Elsewhere in commodities, gold rose 1.3% to $1419.10/ounce, snapping a four-session losing streak. In earnings, Levi Strauss tumbled 12% after providing disappointing forward guidance.