By Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks declined on Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a third straight decline after its most recent record high, as concerns grew over the strength of China's economy. London copper, seen as a proxy for China's economic health, fell for a fourth day to its lowest level since July 2010. Recent China data suggested an economic slowdown, while the country's first-ever bond default last week increased concerns financing deals that use the industrial metal as collateral could unravel. Investors also continue to monitor geopolitical developments as earnings season has drawn to a close and amid a light economic calendar, leaving no catalyst to push the benchmark S&P index higher after its most recent record close on Friday.
Wall Street's average cash bonus swelled last year to its highest since the financial crisis and the third largest on record, New York State's budget watchdog said on Wednesday. The cash bonus pool jumped 15 percent to $26.7 billion in 2013, pushing the average cash bonus was $164,530, according to the New York state comptroller's annual estimate based on personal income tax trends. The increased bonuses came as Wall Street posted a fifth consecutive year of profits after record losses during the 2008 financial crisis. "Wall Street navigated through some rough patches last year and had a profitable year in 2013.
Pimco, home to the world's largest bond fund run by co-founder Bill Gross, upgraded its assessment on U.S. economic growth on Wednesday, saying it now expects expansion to run between 2.5 percent and 3 percent in 2014. In its global economic outlook, Pimco said its improved baseline expectation for real growth in the United States stems from "trends toward growth and spending in the consumer, corporate and public sectors." In December, Pacific Investment Management Co, better known as Pimco, had said the firm expected U.S. economic growth to run between 2.25 and 2.75 percent in 2014. "The global economy will likely experience steady, broad-based growth in 2014 thanks in no small part to the extraordinary expansion in central bank balance sheets in 2013," portfolio manager Saumil H. Parikh said in the report. A spokeswoman said Parikh's report represents the views of Pimco, which oversaw $1.91 trillion in assets under management as of December 31.
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is expected to start raising U.S. interest rates in the third quarter of next year as the unemployment rate falls and the economy charts a new path of stronger growth, a Reuters survey of economists showed. The U.S. central bank slashed short-term interest rates to a record low close to zero in December 2008 and committed to keep them there while it nursed the economy back to health. Thirty-two of 63 economists surveyed forecast the Fed hiking overnight rates in either the second or third quarters of 2015, while 14 saw a rate hike coming earlier and six saw it coming later. "You are looking at an unemployment rate that probably gets below 6 percent by the second half of 2015 and that's within a hair's breath of full employment," said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco.