Federal Reserve meeting minutes signaled the central bank could soon moderate its aggressive policies of hiking interest rates

New York (AFP) - Wall Street stocks rose again Wednesday following Federal Reserve minutes signaling a moderation in its aggressive policy to counter inflation, while oil prices slumped amid worries over demand.

US stocks followed up Tuesday’s rally to close higher again after a majority of Fed policymakers found that a slower pace of interest rate hikes would “likely soon be appropriate,” according to minutes of their meeting this month.

Analysts at Oxford Economics said the minutes “strengthen our conviction in our forecast for a 50-basis point rate hike at the December meeting” after the central bank previously engineered four straight 75-basis point hikes.

The minutes helped US stocks recover from an earlier swoon, while the dollar retreated.

All three major equity indices finished higher, with the S&P 500 adding 0.6 percent.

US markets will be closed on Thursday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday and will end trading at midday on Friday.

Earlier, reports showed surprisingly strong orders of big-ticket US manufactured goods in October, while new home sales defied expectations and rose during the same month.

Weekly jobless claims ticked higher, while a University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment topped expectations.

Elsewhere, Paris and London also closed in positive territory, while Frankfurt ended flat.

The eurozone’s composite purchasing managers index (PMI), a key economic indicator, improved from 47.3 in October to 47.8 in November, S&P Global said.

But activity languished under 50 – signifying the fifth consecutive month of economic contraction as inflation spikes, and dampening the outlook for the fourth quarter.

Oil prices slid on fears of more painful Covid lockdowns in China that could ravage the Asian giant’s energy demand.

The main American oil contract, the West Texas Intermediate, briefly sank by more than five percent on Wednesday, eventually closing more than three percent down.

“With China also grappling with record numbers of Covid cases the macro-outlook has continued to deteriorate for oil this week, with prices on course to decline for the third week in a row,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Market UK.

Analysts said oil prices had not been significantly affected by efforts of G7 countries to set a price cap on Russian oil.

The group is looking at a range of between $65 and $70 a barrel, which is already the range the commodity trades at; that means the measure is unlikely to remove oil supply from the market, analysts said.

- Key figures around 2130 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 34,194.06 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.6 percent at 4,027.26 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.0 percent at 11,285.32 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,465.24 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 6,679.09 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: FLAT at 14,427.59 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 3,946.44 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.6 percent at 17,523.81 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,096.91 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0401 from $1.0304 on Tuesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 139.52 yen from 141.23 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2064 from $1.1886

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.18 pence from 86.69 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.6 percent at $77.94 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.3 percent at $85.41 per barrel