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Wednesday's Bank Stocks: Rise on increasing optimism from the Fed

Bank stocks ended the day higher as investors digested the Federal Open Market Committee's more hawkish tone in the minutes released from last month's meeting.

The SNL U.S. Bank Index rose 0.38% to 648.85 and the SNL U.S. Thrift Index increased 0.50% to 956.79.

Banks generally favor a higher-rate environment, and the tone at January's FOMC meeting indicated the Fed's consensus is three total rate hikes for 2018. That case is strengthened by fresh indications of rising inflation and newly enacted tax reform, which the Fed expects to cause larger economic effects in the near term than it initially anticipated.

"I would say three rate hikes look pretty certain," said Todd Lowenstein, managing director of HighMark Capital Management. "A fourth rate hike is possible" if inflation and growth rise more quickly than expected. Lowenstein added that the officials seemed relaxed about the inflation picture, and that they "didn't feel they were behind the curve on that at all."

For their part, the broader market indexes surged higher leading up to the FOMC's minutes release at 2 p.m. ET, but closed the day lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.67% to 24,797.78, the S&P 500 fell 0.55% to 2,701.33 and the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.22% to 7,218.23.

Among the Big Four banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. gained 0.42% to $115.19, Citigroup Inc. rose 0.71% to $77.00, Wells Fargo & Co. fell 0.37% to $59.73 and Bank of America Corp. slipped 0.16% to $31.87.

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Market prices and index values are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change.