Wall St ends higher as US rate hike looms

·3-min read

Wall Street stocks have closed higher as an on-target inflation report largely staunched the flow of the previous session's sell-off and investors pressed the "pause" button.

All three indexes wavered throughout the day but ultimately ended in positive territory.

They all failed to regain meaningful ground lost in Tuesday's carnage, which wrought their largest percentage plunges in more than two years.

"Today is a lick-your-wounds day after taking body blows yesterday," said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at Carson Group in Omaha, Nebraska.

"It's a day of rest and that's somewhat of a welcome sign."

The Labor Department's producer prices (PPI) data landed close to consensus estimates and provided some relief in the aftermath of Tuesday's market-rattling CPI print, which came in hotter than expected.

"The inflation debate continues and yesterday was a harsh reminder that this is a tough battle and the Fed needs to remain aggressive to put a lid on the widespread inflationary prices we're seeing," Detrick added.

The PPI report offered reassurance that inflation is indeed on a slow, downward trajectory.

But it still has a long way to go before it approaches the Federal Reserve's average annual 2.0 per cent inflation target, and while financial markets have fully priced in an interest rate hike of at least 75 basis points at the conclusion of the FOMC's policy meeting next week, they see a 28 per cent likelihood of a super-sized, 100 basis-point increase, according to CME's FedWatch tool.

Two-year US Treasury yields, which reflect interest rate expectations, extended Tuesday's rise.

The size and duration of further interest rate hikes have many market observers concerned over the lagging effects of the Fed's tightening phase, with some viewing recession as unavoidable.

The transportation sector, seen as a barometer of economic health and which provides a glimpse into the supply side of the inflation picture, was weighed down by rail stocks in the face of a potential strike.

"Does the White House really want rails to shut down and impact supply chains even more, less than two months before midterm elections?" Detrick asked.

"We're optimistic they can keep rails open."

Shares of railway operators Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and CSX Corp all fell even as Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met with union representatives in Washington DC in talks aimed at preventing a rail shutdown.

The S&P 500 gained 13.80 points, or 0.35 per cent, to end at 3,946.49 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 90.58 points, or 0.78 per cent, to 11,724.15 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 37.56 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 31,137.79.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, energy stocks were the top percentage gainers, boosted by rising crude prices over supply concerns.

Starbucks Corp shares jumped after the company increased its three-year profit and sales outlook.

Tesla Inc rebounded from Tuesday's drop on the same day US President Joe Biden announced the approval of $US900 million ($A1.3 billion) in funding for EV charging stations.