Dow falls ahead of Powell speech; Tesla shares boost Nasdaq

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Wall Street was mixed on Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 down ahead of comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell later in the day, while Tesla shares were among top boosts to the Nasdaq after the company’s sales in China nearly doubled.

Powell’s speech will be closely watched for signs of a slowdown in the pace of interest rate hikes by the central bank, as well as to assess the general health of the U.S. economy.

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“The market is expecting him (Powell) to say maybe we won’t do the 75 bps hike … when people listen to the Fed Chair speak, they’re waiting for that little hint,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

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Hopes that the Fed will now hike rates in smaller increments and recent data pointing to a mild cooling in prices have positioned the benchmark S&P 500 index for its second straight month of gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 17.5% in the last two months, while the Nasdaq index has added 4.2%.

Traders expect the Fed to increase rates by 50 basis points in December, with the rates peaking in June 2023.

Tesla Inc’s shares rose 1.7%, the most among growth stocks, including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc, all of which rose between 0.6% and 1.2%.

China Merchants Bank International said Tesla’s sales in China in November were boosted by price cuts and incentives offered on its Model 3 and Model Y.

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Data on the day was mixed as the ADP National Employment report showed private employment increased by 127,000 in November, below expectations of 200,000 jobs, suggesting demand for labor was cooling amid high interest rates.

The Labor Department’s closely watched nonfarm payrolls data is due on Friday. A report showed U.S. job openings falling to 10.334 million in October, against 10.687 million in the prior month.

Another reading showed the U.S. economy rebounded more strongly than initially thought in the third quarter.

“A mixed bag this morning. So I don’t really make much out of that, I’d like to see what Powell has to say,” Saluzzi added.

At 10:08 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 156.00 points, or 0.46%, at 33,696.53, the S&P 500 was down 4.84 points, or 0.12%, at 3,952.79, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 47.46 points, or 0.43%, at 11,031.24.

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3M Co fell 1.6% as lockdowns in China hurt the company’s electronic division, while Boeing Co gained 1.0% after a key U.S. lawmaker drafted a proposal granting exceptions for the planemaker’s two 737 MAX variants.

Biogen Inc jumped 6.0% after its experimental Alzheimer’s drug slowed cognitive decline in a closely watched trial.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.05-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.04-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and 74 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal, Devik Jain & Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Shounak Dasgupta)

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