Stocks gain for a third session as investors parse retail sales data, await Fed update

Stocks traded modestly higher Wednesday morning as investors parsed a reading on U.S. retail sales in August amid the COVID-19 pandemic and waited for a policy update from the Federal Reserve due later in the session.

How are equity benchmarks performing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.57%   added 100 points, or 0.4%, and was trading near 28,096, while the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.32%   advanced 8 points to about 3,410, a gain of 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.11%   index was hovering around unchanged, about 11,194.

On Tuesday, the Dow rose 2.27 points to finish at 27,995.60, while the S&P 500 gained 17.66 points, or 0.5%, to trade at 3,401.20, marking its third straight increase. The Nasdaq finished up 133.67 points, or 1.2%, at 11,190.32, logging back-to-back gains.

What’s driving the market?

Investors are awaiting the Fed’s first policy statement and updated economic projections under its new flexible inflation target strategy, which allows the central bank to let inflation run above 2% annually, and essentially calls for interest rates to remain lower for longer. Market participants are watching to see how the central bank and Chairman Jerome Powell communicate the implementation of its new policy measures, announced last month.

See: Fed to signal interest-rate hikes won’t be an issue until 2024

The Federal Open Market Committee will release a policy statement at 2 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Powell will hold a press conference a half-hour later; and although no major changes to benchmark interest rates, which stand between 0% and 0.25%, are expected, market watchers will hope to glean more guidance from the Fed on the state of the economy

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