US stocks open lower ahead of Fed statement

New York, Sep 17 (IANS) US stocks opened fractionally lower on Thursday as investors digested economic reports ahead of the Federal Reserve’s highly-watched statement scheduled to be released in the afternoon.

In the week ending September 12, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims fell 11,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level to 264,000, below market consensus of 275,000, the US Labor Department said on Thursday.

The 4-week moving average was 272,500, a decrease of 3,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 275,750.

Meanwhile, US privately-owned housing starts in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,126,000, according to the Commerce Department on Thursday.

This is 3.0 percent below the revised July estimate of 1,161,000, but is 16.6 percent above the August 2014 rate of 966,000.

Investors are closely watching the Fed’s ongoing policy meeting, as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) could raise interest rates for the first time in nine years. All eyes are on Thursday afternoon’s highly-anticipated statement and press conference.

“We expect the Fed will choose to start normalising rates today, not because it is necessarily warranted, but because — in their own words — they believe it is warranted, and because in the end they are likely to agree 25bp is not a big deal one way or the other,” chief economist at FTN Financial Chris Low said.

Uncertainty about the Fed’s decision on hiking rates at the meeting has been contributing to recent volatility in the market.

Shortly after the opening bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10.29 points (0.06 percent), to 16,729.66. The S&P 500 lost 2.13 points (0.11 percent), to 1,993.18. The Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 4.70 points (0.10 percent), to 4,884.54.

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