Inflation: Fed minutes hint possible interest rate hike
Indianapolis Star
Associated Press
April 12, 2007

NEW YORK -- Wall Street stumbled Wednesday, pulling the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 90 points after minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting indicated the central bank is not ruling out an interest-rate hike to curb inflation.

The minutes, coupled with a jump in gasoline prices, heightened investor worries about inflation and drove an already sagging stock market lower. Investors are growing increasingly anxious that rates may rise, which could limit corporate profits and consumer spending and further weaken the housing market by making mortgages more expensive.

Wall Street had been hoping instead that the central bank might lower rates because of the slowing economy. But the minutes released Wednesday showed the Fed was remaining steadfast in its vigilance against inflation. The Fed's Open Market Committee said at its March 20-21 meeting, "all members agreed the statement should indicate that the committee's predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected."

The Dow fell 89.23, or 0.71 percent, to 12,484.62, after dropping 118 points earlier in the session.

Broader stock indicators also declined. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 9.52, or 0.66 percent, to 1,438.87, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 18.30, or 0.74 percent, to 2,459.31.

Bonds fell after the Fed minutes were released. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.74 percent from 4.72 percent late Tuesday. The dollar was higher against the euro and the yen, while gold prices were unchanged.

The dollar was helped by comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said after a speech at New York University that China is unlikely to sell off U.S. assets.

Since recent data have suggested slow economic growth and a stable job market, Wall Street's recession jitters have eased and inflation has re-emerged as a big concern.

And with energy costs heading upward, investors' hopes for a rate cut by the middle of the year have dwindled. The government on Wednesday reported a 5.5 million-barrel decline in the nation's gasoline inventories, which was four times what the market expected and the ninth straight weekly drop.

Crude oil prices rose 12 cents to $62.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while gasoline futures rose more than 3 cents to $2.1587 a gallon, an eight-month high.

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