U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday after the Fed statement and major earnings reports. Gains in shares of Apple countered declines in Coca-Cola.
"I didn't get the feeling it was dovish or hawkish. It was kind of neutral, really," said John Caruso, senior market strategist at RJO Futures. "It seemed like they upgraded the economy but they didn't say they were ready to move forward on raising interest rates."
The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 closed a mildly lower. The Nasdaq composite outperformed, helped by gains in Apple. The stock closed 6.5 percent higher, its best day since April 2014 after reporting better-than-expected earnings. The firm also gave strong current-quarter revenue guidance and posted iPhone and iPad shipments above estimates.
As expected, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged in its statement released in the afternoon. Policymakers noted the labor market has "strengthened" and that "near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished."
"That's their nod to Brexit and that Brexit is not going to be as big of an issue as they thought," said Bryce Doty, senior fixed income manager with Sit Investment Associates. "I think the market wanted something more definite than that, that they were going to clearly state the economy is on track."
Analysts were divided on whether the statement pointed to a September rate hike.
"I think December is the base case at this point," said Mike Baele, managing director at U.S. Bank Private Client Reserve. "Given the strong data, a September move is plausible and can't be ruled out. The Fed left the door open subject to data going forward."
Treasury yields held lower, with the 2-year yield around 0.72 percent and the 10-year yield near 1.51 percent. Post-settle, gold hit nearly two-week highs of $1,341.80 an ounce. The major indexes closed near levels from before the Fed statement release.
"The Fed's telling us they have a plan and they're not going to be distracted by recent things in the market, including things as big as Brexit. They're refocusing everyone's attention on their dual mandate," said Alan Rechtschaffen, financial advisor and senior vice president, UBS Wealth Management Americas.
Coca-Cola closed 3.3 percent lower after missing on revenue and cutting organic revenue forecasts for the year. The beverage maker noted more severe international headwinds than anticipated, and a worsening macroeconomic environment in the quarter. The firm did see a 3 percent rise in organic revenue, helped by better pricing.
Declines in shares of Molson Coors and Coca-Cola weighed the most on the consumer staples sector, which closed nearly 1.5 percent lower to lead S&P 500 decliners. Information technology closed nearly 0.8 percent higher to lead advancers in the S&P 500.
"It's really a market of stocks. That's why we're reacting differently to earnings reports," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. He also attributed stocks' mixed performance in midday trade to resistance at 2,200 in the S&P 500, profit-taking and declines in oil prices.
U.S. crude oil futures settled down $1.00, or 2.33 percent, at $41.92 a barrel after the EIA reported a surprise crude stock build of 1.7 million barrels. The energy sector closed 1 percent lower.
The Dow posted its third-straight day of losses, but remained within 1 percent of its all-time intraday high hit last week. The S&P 500 was within half a percent of its intraday record, also touched last week.
"There's a feeling earnings will be better in the second half ... and also in terms of the economy," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. He expected the Fed to take a slightly more hawkish tone in its statement.
The Bank of Japan is set to begin a two-day meeting on Thursday. Overnight, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government would compile a stimulus package of more than $265 billion to reflate the flagging economy, according to Reuters, citing media reports.
"The Japanese announcement is going to be very important for the market because you don't want the market to be disappointed. The question is, whether or not the Bank of Japan will delivery," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.
The yen last traded near 105.2 yen versus the greenback, while the euro was near $1.106 and sterling approaching $1.32.
The U.S. dollar index was about a third of a percent lower after initially spiking following the Fed announcement.
The decline in the U.S. dollar index was "probably related to the fact some people were expecting a strong signal (of) putting September back on the table and they didn't get a very strong one," said Andres Jaime, global FX and rates strategist at Barclays. He expected any indications for a September hike to come at Fed Chair Janet Yellen's scheduled remarks at the Aug. 26 central bank conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.