January 29, 2020 / 6:16 PM / 18 days ago

US STOCKS-Apple, Boeing lift Wall Street ahead of Fed decision

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* Fed expected to hold rates, statement due at 2:00 pm ET

* Apple, Boeing boost Dow after earnings

* Starbucks slips as virus prompts store closures in China

* Indexes up: Dow 0.38%, S&P 0.29%, Nasdaq 0.34% (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar

Jan 29 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes rose on Wednesday, boosted by shares of Apple, Boeing and General Electric following their results, while investors assessed the economic damage of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The Federal Reserve is also in focus, with the central bank expected to release its monetary policy statement at 2:00 pm ET, followed by Chairman Jerome Powell’s news conference.

With interest rates expected to remain on hold, market participants are keen to know the central bank’s take on adjustments to its balance sheet and the impact of China’s coronavirus outbreak on global growth.

Since the Fed cut rates in October, its third and final reduction in 2019, policymakers have agreed to keep their target policy rate in the current range of 1.50% and 1.75%.

“Investors will be paying close attention to Powell’s comments, where I think we could get a little bit of a surprise in the assessment of inflation,” said Ryan Sweet, head of monetary policy research at Moody’s Analytics.

“You could start to see the Fed put more emphasis on the inflation undershoot, which would be dovish. They’re not raising rates anytime soon. But if inflation fails to accelerate, I won’t take a rate cut off the table.”

Apple Inc gained 2.8% after the iPhone maker reported earnings for the holiday shopping quarter above analysts’ expectations, even as it braced for more disruptions in virus-hit China.

Boeing Co rose 2% after the planemaker forecast nearly $19 billion in costs related to the grounding of its 737 MAX jets, smaller than what many analysts had expected.

As earnings gather pace, analysts expect profit for S&P 500 companies to be flat in the fourth quarter, an improvement over a 0.6% decline estimated at the start of the season, according to Refinitiv data.

General Electric jumped 10.4% after the industrial conglomerate set higher cash target for 2020.

At 12:58 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.38% to 28,831.31. The S&P 500 gained 0.29% to 3,285.77 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.34% at 9,300.74.

However, several companies warned of disruption to their operations due to the virus outbreak and a Chinese government economist was quoted as saying the country’s economic growth may drop to 5% or even lower.

Starbucks Corp dropped 3.1% after warning of a financial hit as it closed thousands of restaurants and adjusted operating hours in China.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.26-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 41 new 52-week highs and seven new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 64 new highs and 47 new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Anil D’Silva)

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