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Stock markets in U.S. eke out minor gains

By Jay Jackson, Minneapolis News.Net
21 Feb 2019, 08:39 GMT+10

NEW YORK, New York - U.S. stocks made modest gains on Wednesday as investors and traders contemplated minutes of the latest Federal Reserve monthly meeting.

U.S. President Donald Trump was upbeat on trade talks with China, also saying the date for the re-implementation of tariffs of 1 March was not a "magical date," hinting the deadline could be extended.

Whilst that news was greeted well, the president went on to say he would impose tariffs on European automakers if a trade deal with the European Union  wasn't agreed. Opening another front on the trade war did not go down well.

Whilst the Federal Reserve board of governors reaffirmed their pause for interest rate hikes they did not indicate for how long this will be sustained, leaving the door open to a rate increase as early as late 2019.

"The minutes largely echoed the Fed's cautious statement from its last meeting," Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington was quoted by Reuters Thomson as saying.

"I get the sense that rates are on hold until later this year. ... But the Fed stopped well short of closing the door to a rate hike later this year if the downside growth risks subside."Southwest Airlines was a major loser of the day, its stock declining 5.7% after it announced the U.S. government shutdown had cost it $60 million.

At the close of trading Wednesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 63.12 points or 0.24% at 25,954.44. 

The Standard and Poor's 500 added 4.94 points or 0.18% to 2,784.70.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 2.30 points or 0.03% at 7,489.07. 

On foreign exchange markets the U.S. dollar was little changed. It lost a little ground against the Canadian dollar however which rose to 1.3175 by the New York close on Wednesday.

The euro hovered around 1.1342 and the British pound at 1.3049. The Japanese yen was range-bound at 110.84.

The Swiss franc firmed a touch to 1.001.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars were unchanged at 0.7165 and 0.6859 respectively.

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