Wall Street ends lower, gold jumps as Fed minutes reveal cautious policy approach

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks dipped on Tuesday and gold touched a two-week high while minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting showed the central bank is “in a position to proceed carefully.”

All three major U.S. stock indexes ended slightly lower, with the tech-laden Nasdaq down the most ahead of Nvidia’s results after the closing bell. The chipmaker forecast fourth-quarter revenue above estimates. Its shares were last slightly lower in extended trading.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both snapped five-day winning streaks.

“We’ve had a very sharp rally, and some profit-taking was probably overdue,” said Tim Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist Ingalls & Snyder in New York. “A lot of traders want to take money off the table on a day like today ahead of the holiday.”

The Fed’s minutes from its Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting showed the policy makers wrestling with conflicting signals and agreeing to continue with caution after voting to leave the Fed funds target rate at 5.25%-5.50%.

The minutes “confirm the statement from the last meeting and (Chairman Jerome) Powell’s news conference afterward that the Fed is likely on hold for now,” Ghriskey added. “If inflation re-accelerated they would likely have to act, but absent that, we’re in a period of higher-for-longer rates and we take them at their word for that.”

On the economic front, existing home sales tumbled to their lowest level in more than 13 years as rising mortgage rates and low inventories kept potential homebuyers on the sidelines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 62.75 points, or 0.18%, to 35,088.29, the S&P 500 lost 9.19 points, or 0.20%, to 4,538.19 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 84.55 points, or 0.59%, to 14,199.98.

European shares closed slightly lower as banking stocks weighed ahead of the Fed minutes release.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.09% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.18%.

Emerging market stocks rose 0.25%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.42% higher, while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.10%.

Benchmark Treasury yields inched lower after a poorly received auction of 10-year inflation protected notes and the Fed minutes failed to reveal any new policy decisions.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 3/32 in price to yield 4.4101%, from 4.422% late on Monday.

The 30-year bond last rose 6/32 in price to yield 4.5643%, from 4.575% late on Monday.

The greenback edged higher against a basket of world currencies, stemming the tide of its recent downturn after the Fed minutes suggested rates will remain in restrictive territory for some time.

The dollar index rose 0.16%, with the euro down 0.26% to $1.091.

The Japanese yen was flat versus the greenback at 148.40 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $1.2534, up 0.24% on the day.

Crude prices pared earlier losses to settle nearly flat as investors looked ahead to Sunday’s scheduled OPEC+ meeting.

U.S. crude dipped 0.08% to settle at $77.77 per barrel, while Brent settled at $82.45 per barrel, up 0.16% on the day.

Gold surged to a two-week high, and briefly broke through the $2,000 per ounce level on expectations that the Fed has reached the end of its tightening cycle.

“Gold’s been in a bit of a rally and part of that is geopolitical concerns and investors looking for a place to hide,” Ghriskey said.

Spot gold added 1.1% to $1,998.42 an ounce.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Samuel Indyk and Ankur Banerjee in London; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Marguerita Choy)