Stocks gain ground on Wall Street ahead of US holiday

Stocks were higher on Wall Street in afternoon trading Thursday, after the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent policy meeting showed the central bank officials saw few signs that inflation was easing.

The Fed officials also expressed uncertainty about how long it might take for their rate hikes to tame inflation, though some expressed hope that falling commodity prices and the unsnarling of supply chain bottlenecks “should contribute to lower inflation in the medium term.’’

Stock indexes edged higher following the 2 p.m. Eastern release of the minutes from the central bank’s Nov. 1-2 meeting. The S&P 500 was up 0.6% as of 2:23 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 111 points, or 0.3%, to 34,215 and the Nasdaq composite was up 1%.

Technology stocks and some big retailers led the gains. Chipmaker Nvidia rose 2.4% and Target rose 3.8%.

Farming equipment maker Deere gained 5.9% after reporting stronger financial results than analysts were expecting.

Crude oil prices fell 3.9% and weighed down energy stocks. Hess fell 2.3%.

Long-term Treasury yields fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.71% from 3.76%.

European markets closed mostly higher and Asian markets closed mixed overnight.

Trading has been unsteady during the holiday-shortened week, but major indexes are on track for weekly gains. U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and will close early on Friday.

Inflation remains the biggest concern for many investors and the Fed’s latest policy meeting minutes could provide more insight into the central bank’s thinking behind its aggressive interest increases. The central bank’s benchmark rate currently stands at 3.75% to 4%, up from close to zero in March. It has warned that it may have to ultimately raise rates to previously unanticipated levels to cool the hottest inflation in decades.

Wall Street has been closely watching the latest economic and inflation data for any signs that might allow the Fed to ease up on future rate increases. Investors are worried that the Fed could slam the brakes too hard on economic growth and bring on a recession.

Consumer spending and the employment market have so far remained strong points in the economy. That has helped as a bulwark against a recession, but also means the Fed may have to remain aggressive.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since August, but the figure still remains low by historic standards. A November survey from the University of Michigan shows that consumer sentiment grew from October by more than economists had expected.

The housing market has been slowing this year under the combination of sharply higher mortgage rates and still-rising home prices. Still, the government’s latest snapshot of the new-home market was encouraging. Sales of new U.S. homes rose in October, while economists polled by FactSet expected a decline from September. Homebuilders gained ground. Lennar rose 1.9%.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage edged lower for the second time in as many weeks, though it remains more than double what it was a year ago, a significant hurdle for many would-be homebuyers.

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