Muted opening for Wall Street ahead of Fed meeting

New York, March 16 (AFP/APP):US stocks opened trading cautiously on Tuesday, as traders digested downbeat economic data thanks to February winter storms and eyed the Federal Reserve’s meeting set to begin in the afternoon.
Government data released before markets opened showed retail sales plunging 3.0 percent and industrial production falling 2.2 percent, in what analysts viewed not as a warning sign for the wider economy but merely the result of unusually bad winter weather.
It was unclear if the data would impact the recent dynamic in markets, where tech stocks have underperformed relative to growth stocks as traders bet on the economy’s wider reopening and an eventual increase in lending rates from the Fed.
The central bank would later in the day begin its regular two-day meeting, and while no rate hike is expected, they will release new economic forecasts on Wednesday and could comment on fears that inflation is set to increase.
About 25 minutes into trading, the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2 percent to hit 32,888.29, off from its record close the day before, while the broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.1 percent to 3,974.12, building on its record finish in the prior session.
The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.6 percent to hit 13,534.21.
Patrick O’Hare of Briefing.com said traders will look past the downbeat data in the retail sales category as they anticipate the impact of a government relief package that gives up to $1,400 in stimulus checks to tax payers.
“The market shouldn’t be thrown for much of a loop by the February sales data — if it’s thrown for one at all — because it recognizes that a new round of stimulus checks is just now starting to hit deposit accounts and will assuredly help prop up retail sales in March and April,” he said.

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