June trade figures out of China were surprisingly bad, with exports down over 3 percent and imports down by 0.7 percent, against expectations of a gain of 3.7 percent and 6 percent, respectively. China, the world’s most populous country, has over the years since the financial crisis been one of the few areas of the global economy from which growth could be counted on.
Meanwhile, the minutes from June’s FOMC meeting appeared to reassert the conflicted, equivocal message that investors have come to expect from the central bank. The transcript of the meeting was essentially a rehash of much of what came out of the Fed in June both in the FOMC’s post-meeting statement, as well as the press conference given by the Chairman following the meeting. About half of the committee supported tapering by late-2103, while the other half claimed that the economy would need the full $85 billion-per month in asset purchases into 2014.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was the day’s only loser, though not by much, dropping 0.06 percent to 15,291.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was 0.02 percent in the positive, ending the day at 1,652.62 points and edging ever-closer to a new all-time high, while the NADAQ lead indices with a gain of 0.47 percent to 3,520.76.
Tech stocks were the Dow’s best performers, with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco Systems (CSCO) in the top three spots, while American Express (AXP) and Bank of America (BAC) were the book-ends on the downside.
Family Dollar Stores (FDO) was the S&P 500’s biggest gainer on Wednesday, up over 7 percent to $68.50 after releasing an earnings report earlier in the day indicating the company beat expectations on earnings-per-share.
On the NASDAQ, tech stocks were also dominant, especially in terms of volume, with solid performances from Intel (INTC), and Applied Materials (AMAT) up over 4 percent and hitting a 52-week high. Facebook (FB) was also up over a percent after implementing new rules for advertisers, as well as announcing new features and capabilities for the Instagram application.