Stocks Finish Higher

Major indexes rallied after Fed meeting minutes indicated that policymakers won't step up rate hikes. Oil prices plummeted

Stocks staged a late-session rally Tuesday to finish higher. Major indexes were able to reverse earlier losses following the release of the minutes from the Mar. 22 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which did not suggest the Fed would raise rates more aggressively. Meanwhile, oil prices took a steep drop, with barrel prices falling by almost $2.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average finished higher by 59.41 points, or 0.57%, to 10,507.97. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 6.55 points, or 0.55%, to 1,187.76. The Nasdaq composite index went up 13.28 points, or 0.67% to 2,005.40.

The Mar. 22 FOMC minutes released at 2 p.m. EDT largely confirmed many traders' suspicions that many committee members see increasing risks to inflation. Some committee members thought the "measured" wording was too restrictive, but no imminent shift toward an aggressive policy stance should be expected, says Action Economics.

The U.S. trade deficit widened to a record $61.04 billion in February, beating expectations. Imports were particularly strong in industrial supply and consumer goods components, and petroleum imports rose $1.7 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Crude oil prices were lower Tuesday. The price of crude settled down 1.85 cents to $51.86 a barrel.

In corporate news, Genentech (DNA ) posted its earnings for the first quarter. The biotech outfit saw earnings of 29 cents per share, vs. 19 cents last year, on 50% higher operating revenue, and 55% higher product sales. These earnings fell below some Wall Street estimates, however.

Black & Decker (BDK ) is up more than 8% after it raised its first-quarter forecast and said it expected to see 15% sales growth.

Newspaper publisher Gannett (GCI ) announced first quarter earnings of $1.05 per share, vs. $1.00 last year, on a 3.6% revenue rise. The earnings fell a penny below the average analyst estimate.

Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG ) saw a decline in its first quarter earnings, to 15 cents a share vs. 19 cents last year. The distributor saw a 3.9% revenue rise, but cited ongoing cost pressures associated with raw materials.

Up ahead on the earnings calendar, companies reporting quarterly results include Apple Computer (AAPL ) and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD ) on Wednesday, Pepsi (PEP ) on Thursday, and Citigroup (C ) and General Electric (GE ) on Friday.

On Wednesday, retail sales data for March will be reported, and on Friday the monthly index of industrial production is due out.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices rose, and yields pushed lower following the FOMC minutes release. While the FOMC minutes suggest that many committee members believe there is significant inflationary pressure, it is unlikely they will raise rates more aggressively. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell to end Tuesday's session at a one-month low of 4.36%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished lower Tuesday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was down 27.00 points, or 0.54%, to 4,946.20.

Germany's DAX index lost 23.97 points, or 0.55%, to 4,372.12.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 20.81 points, or 0.51%, to 4096.81.

Asian markets finished lower on Tuesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 75.34 points, or 0.64%, to 11,670.30.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.88 points, or 0.01%, moving to 13,658.05.

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