Stocks posted gains for a fourth consecutive session Wednesday as investors awaited a policy announcement from the Federal Reserve.
Retail sales for August rose for the third month in a row but slowed as federal relief for unemployed Americans expired and activity at stores and restaurants moderated as business struggle to reopen.
Retail sales increased 0.6% last month, below estimates that called for a 1% increase.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 78 points, or 0.28%, to 28,073, the S&P 500 gained 0.35% and the Nasdaq rose 0.34%.
Stocks rose Tuesday and the S&P 500 finished higher for the third consecutive session as tech stocks led the charge. The Nasdaq, home to a fair number of the largest U.S. tech stocks, rose 1.2%.
The Federal Reserve is expected to hold rates near zero, where it lowered them to at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, and reaffirm its new, more relaxed stance on inflation.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in August the central bank would keep interest rates low even if inflation rises above its target levels.
The Fed will announce its decision on interest rates at 2 p.m. ET, followed by a press conference from Powell.
“One of the most significant risks and underappreciated risks that the market is facing is the uncertainty regarding monetary policy,” said Andrew Smith, chief investment strategist at Delos Capital Advisors in Dallas. “The Federal Reserve embarked on a new interest rate methodology that allows for inflation to run above average to offset periods where inflation runs below average. We believe the Fed’s commitment to stoking inflation could cause dramatic volatility in interest rates, which could hurt stock prices.”
Oil prices in the U.S. rose 2.32% to $39.17 a barrel as Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama with sustained winds of more than 105 mph, shuttering nearly a quarter of all Gulf region output.