U.S. stocks are moving higher ahead of today’s Federal Open Market Committee decision about rates that will be released at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Many investors believe that the Fed will raise interest rates for the first time in over nine years. Not since 2006 have interest rates been kicked up a notch. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has suggested that the economy and employment picture are stable enough to withstand a rate hike. Following the decision, there will be a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
The S&P 500 is up by 14 points to 2,058, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 145 points to 17,670 and the Nasdaq is higher by 37 points to 5,032.
Target has completed the sale of its pharmacy businesses to CVS Health for about $1.9 billion. CVS will take over existing pharmacies and open new clinic locations in some target stores. The transition to the store-within-store concept will take place over the next six to eight months. Target’s fourth quarter will now book a pre-tax gain of $575 million to $775 million, depending on the valuation of assets sold. Target stock is up 63 cents to trade near $73.61 in early trading.
Ascena Retail Group has approved an additional $200 million of stock buybacks. It replaces the previous authorization of a $100 million stock buyback. Ascena stock is jumping over 3 percent to $10.02.
Disney and Alibaba are launching a new media service with a Mickey Mouse-shaped device that can be connected to the TV. The mouse-shaped device will cost $125. Users will be able to stream movies and television shows, listen to music and read e-books. Disney will be able to access Alibaba’s enormous subscriber base. Alibaba has been growing its entertainment and media businesses. Disney stock is up over 1 percent this morning to $113 on the news, adding to gains from the massive “Star Wars” movie premiere this week. Alibaba is also up over 1 percent to $83.
In other economic news, November housing starts rose to 1.173 million from 1.062 million, easily beating the estimate of 1.135 million. That also explains why consumers are spending on home items and not a lot of apparel purchases.
Asian markets closed out the day on a high note. Japan’s Nikkei led the way as it jumped 2.6 percent, even though its December manufacturing slid but continues in expansion.
European markets also seemed to feel positive about a potential rate hike in the U.S. All the major European indices moved higher as a plethora of economic data in the region was coming out. The euro zone’s inflation was not as bad as expected and while most of the reports slightly missed expectations, they weren’t necessarily bad.