The U.S. stock market got off to a tepid start on Wednesday after President Trump’s State of the Union address gave few indicators about the direction of trade talks or progress on a new budget. Investors have already looked past the event and are now shifting gears to a forthcoming speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as the key mover for the Dow and its peers.
Wall Street’s major indexes opened slightly lower on Wednesday, reflecting the rocky pre-market session for stock futures. The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened 40 points lower before paring losses later in the morning. The blue-chip index has since edged up 0.1% to 25,432.61.
The broad S&P 500 Index declined 0.1% to 2,734.39, with losses mainly concentrated in communication services and consumer discretionary stocks.
The technology-driven Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.1% to 7,391.63.
In terms of potentially market-moving events, Fed Chair Jerome Powell will appear at a central bank town hall meeting Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. ET. Powell’s commentary could have a direct impact on U.S. stock futures ahead of the opening bell on Thursday.
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In his second State of the Union Address, President Trump on Tuesday called for Democrats and Republicans to unite against the “politics of revenge” and focus on matters relevant to the economy and national security. However, rather than produce winners and losers on Wall Street, the speech gave investors no new information on trade or border-security funding.
Speculation that infrastructure stocks would take off as the President talked up the need for a new border wall didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Pharmaceutical companies, which have long been vulnerable to Trump’s campaign against higher drug prices, were relatively unaffected as the president focused heavily on immigration and foreign policy.
Investors were virtually unfazed by the president’s claim that “an economic miracle is taking place in the United States.” Trump said the only thing stopping the economic recovery are “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he added. “It just doesn’t work that way!”
The debate over border-security funding will continue to influence the near-term direction of the Dow and its sister indices over the next week-and-a-half as lawmakers race to get a new budget in place by Feb. 15. That’s the day the current stopgap spending bill expires. Congress is looking to finalize its work on a new budget this week to allow time for votes.
Donald Trump Image from Doug Mills / POOL / AFP