The US markets closed mostly higher on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 carving out fresh all-time highs, as the Federal Reserve announced that, for the first time in nine years, it would start reducing the size of its $4.5 trillion asset portfolio commencing in October. The US central bank kept interest rates unchanged, as widely expected, but said it would start to shrink its balance sheet by $10 billion a month. The Fed also signaled a December rate increase remains on the table as the central bank embarks on an unprecedented unwind of crisis-era asset purchases that had helped to buoy markets over the past decade. The Fed committed to reducing the bonds they own at a pace of $10 billion a month and increasing that pace by $10 billion every three months to a maximum pace of $50 billion a month, or $600 billion a year. The Fed kept its targeted federal-funds rate between 1% to 1.25%, and said the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma isn't likely to materially alter the course of the economy over the medium term, underscoring the central bank's determination to normalize interest-rate policy. The Fed's interest-rate projections, known as the so-called dot plot, implies a rate hike in December and three more in 2018. Yellen emphasized, during the news conference, that the central bank was monitoring stubbornly low inflation closely, with an eye to seeing it return to its 2% annual target. Inflation has been kept in check, despite an otherwise healthy labor market, which should theoretically lift prices and inflation. Several central-bank officials already wanted to start winding down the Fed's portfolio of government securities in July, but the majority wanted to hold until a later date.
On the economy front, existing-home sales in August dropped for the fourth time in five months as real-estate agents continue to blame a lack of available homes to buy. The National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales fell 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.35 million, the worst level in 12 months. Total housing inventory at the end of August declined 2.1% to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 6.5% lower than a year ago. That limited inventory has helped stoke prices - the median existing-home price in August was $253,500, up 5.6%. Hurricane Harvey did make an impact, in Houston in particular, as the South's sales fell by 5.7%. Sales in the Northeast and the Midwest rose, while those in the West fell. Yun said nearly all of the lost activity from the hurricanes that struck Texas, Louisiana and Florida will likely show up next year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 41.79 points or 0.19 percent to 22,412.59, the S&P 500 edged higher by 1.59 points or 0.06 percent to 2,508.24, while the Nasdaq lost 5.28 points or 0.08 percent to 6,456.04.