By Noel Randewich
(Reuters) – U.S. stocks surged on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it would be patient in lifting borrowing costs further this year, reassuring investors worried about a slowing economy.
Along with better-than-feared quarterly results from Apple Inc, the Fed’s comments helped Wall Street reverse two down days triggered by profit warnings from U.S. bellwethers that signaled a bigger impact from a slowdown in China.
The U.S. central bank held interest rates steady, as widely expected.
While the Fed said continued U.S. economic and job growth were still “the most likely outcomes,” it removed language from its December policy statement that risks to the outlook were “roughly balanced” and struck language that projected “some further” rate hikes would be appropriate in 2019.
It also said it could alter the pace of its balance sheet reduction “in light of economic and financial developments”. The Fed’s balance sheet surged following the 2008 financial crisis, and many investors believe its effort to shrink it may stifle economic growth.
Investors in recent months have become more concerned about the global economy. U.S. corporate results have shown companies including Apple, Intel Corp and Caterpillar Inc are feeling pain from the slowing expansion of China’s economy, which has been hurt by a trade conflict with the United States.
“The markets got what they were hoping for in the Fed’s written statement, including both the notion of the central bank’s patience on future rate hikes and greater flexibility in its approach to reducing its balance sheet,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz in Newport Beach, California.
Apple shares jumped 6.83 percent after the company reported a sharp growth in services business, easing concerns after the iPhone maker earlier this month cut current-quarter sales forecast.
Boeing Co gained 6.25 percent after the world’s largest plane-maker forecast full-year profit and cash flow above analysts’ estimates amid a boom in air travel and speedier 737 production.
Following the Fed’s rate announcement, all three main U.S. stock indexes extended gains from earlier in the session and the S&P 500 closed at its highest since Dec. 6.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 1.77 percent to end at 25,014.86 points, while the S&P 500 gained 1.55 percent to 2,681.05.
The Nasdaq Composite surged 2.2 percent to 7,183.08.
Investors were also tracking the latest round of talks between Washington and Beijing that began on Wednesday, the highest-level meeting since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce to their trade war in December.
The Philadelphia Semiconductor index surged 2.87 percent, while the S&P technology index jumped 3.03 percent.
Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc, set to report after the closing bell, rose 3 percent or more.
Of the 168 S&P 500 companies that have reported results so far, 73.2 percent have topped profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 4.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.31-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 27 new highs and 28 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.9 billion shares, compared with the 7.7 billion-share average over the last 20 trading days.
(Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and James Dalgleish)