S&P 500, Nasdaq post closing record highs after CPI, Fed

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The S&P 500 and Nasdaq posted record closing highs for a third straight day on Wednesday after inflation data came in softer than expected but the indexes ended off the day's highs as the Federal Reserve projected only one interest rate cut this year.

The Fed's March projections included three quarter-percentage-point reductions. The U.S. central bank, in a statement at the end of its June 11-12 meeting, also said it left its policy rate unchanged, as expected.

Stocks were choppy following the news and press conference with Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq paring gains late and the Dow finishing near flat.

Stocks opened higher after the Labor Department reported that the U.S. Consumer Price Index was unexpectedly unchanged in May due to cheaper gasoline.

"The CPI number was certainly cooler than estimates and drove optimism to start the day but that was only half of today's menu," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

James said he would have expected the market to end weaker after the Fed's update, noting that "the commentary was hawkish and rate cut (expectations) were trimmed from three to one."

Oracle shares jumped 13.3%, lifting the market, after the software provider forecast double-digit revenue in fiscal 2025 after the bell on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 35.21 points, or 0.09%, to 38,712.21. The S&P 500 rose 45.71 points, or 0.85%, to 5,421.03 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 264.89 points, or 1.53%, to 17,608.44.

Just after the CPI report, traders boosted bets for a Fed rate cut by September and another by December.

Apple's shares climbed 2.9%, extending Tuesday's strong gains, and the company briefly once again became the world's most valuable, dethroning Microsoft from the top spot.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.80 billion shares, compared with the 12.74 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 2.86-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.78-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 39 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 99 new highs and 80 new lows.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York, Lisa Mattackal and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Pooja Desai and Richard Chang)