The US equity benchmarks ticked higher in early trading on Wednesday as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's latest interest-rate statement and Chair Jerome Powell's comments on the world's biggest economy as it continues to grapple with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stocks were bolstered by earnings from FedEx (FDX). The logistics firm climbed 7.2% after reporting late Tuesday fiscal first-quarter earnings and revenue that surpassed the Street's expectations. Rival delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS) gained 1.3%.
But attention was also focused on the Fed, which is expected to keep the target range on the benchmark Fed funds rate on hold at 0% to 0.25% as the US continues to feel the impact of COVID-19. Powell will also give comments after the release of the decision that comes after he outlined a new approach to inflation targeting that could indicate rates will be kept lower for longer to shore up the economy.
Wednesday's data showed retail sales for August rose 0.6% month-on-month, missing the Econoday consensus for 1% growth. Weekly mortgage applications slipped 2.5% through Sept. 11 from a week earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.
The Standard & Poor's 500 sectors were mostly higher shortly after the opening bell, with health care and real estate both adding 0.5% while utilities slipped 0.3%. Energy climbed 0.6% as prices for crude oil rose, with West Texas Intermediate up 2.5% to $39.26 a barrel as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said personnel have been evacuated from 23% of the manned oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricane Sally.
In company news, Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) rose 2.9% after saying in a filing Tuesday it will cut its workforce in Europe and Latin America. Ossen Innovation (OSN) jumped 15% after the steel materials maker received a non-binding takeover offer.
ADT (ADT) dropped 12% after pricing a secondary public stock offering of 43.5 million shares at $10 each. Brady (BRC) fell 7% as the maker of safety products reported year-on-year declines in fiscal fourth quarter earnings and sales.
In morning trading, the S&P 500 was up 0.3%, the Dow was 0.2% stronger and the Nasdaq added 0.1%.