Major stock indexes and the euro fell and then mostly recovered Wednesday after the Federal Reserve extended its monetary stimulus program known as “Operation Twist” in an effort to keep the U.S. economic recovery from stalling.
Analysts said investors had expected the U.S. central bank to extend its bond-buying program – dubbed “Operation Twist” – but added that some were disappointed that it had not committed to more aggressive measures to boost growth in the face of slower U.S. hiring and a festering European debt crisis.
Operation Twist involves the Fed selling short-term debt it holds to buy longer-term bonds in an effort to lower long-term borrowing costs.
The Fed said it would expand its “Twist” program by swapping $267 billion in U.S. Treasury securities by the end of 2012. “Twist” had been set to end this month.
“The decision stopped short of what people had hoped for, which was additional asset purchases,” said Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist at BNY Mellon.
John Canally, investment strategist and economist at LPL Financial, said “there were a lot of guys out there with the finger on the ‘sell’ button unless they saw balance-sheet expansion.”
Even so, that selling faded shortly after the Fed’s announcement and U.S. stocks returned to near the break-even point or slightly higher.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 7.42 points, or 0.06 percent, at 12,829.91. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was off 1.64 points, or 0.12 percent, at 1,356.34. But the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 2.75 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,932.51.
The MSCI index of global stocks rose 0.24 percent to 311.18.
The euro rose 0.2 percent to $1.2706, drawing some support from reports that Greek conservatives had succeeded in forming a coalition government.
The Fed “appears to be holding more firepower in reserve in case things get worse,” said Allen Sinai, chief executive officer of Decision Economics in New York.
The FOMC’s statement noted that the U.S. central bank was “prepared to take further action as appropriate” to help the economy – a line that was not in its April statement.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a press conference at 2:15 p.m.
The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond initially rose on the Fed’s announcement, but reversed course. The bond was down 8/32 to yield 2.75 percent, while the 10-year note fell 10/32 to yield 1.66 percent.
U.S. crude oil for July delivery fell $2.42, or 2.88 percent, to $81.61 per barrel. The July contract will expire at Wednesday’s close.
“Crude futures have been following the stock markets, which have been strong in anticipation of the Fed move,” said Mark Anderle, trader for TAC Energy in Dallas. “Now that the Fed’s done it, we’re going through the ‘buy the rumor, sell the news’ phase.”
Whatever disappointment markets felt for the Fed was tempered by signs that Europe’s leaders were making progress on a long-term plan to resolve the continent’s debt crisis.
The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top European shares rose 0.5 percent after hitting a one-month high in the previous session.
Spot gold fell $12.67, or 0.78 percent, to $1,604.70.