By Yashaswini Swamynathan
The S&P 500 and the Dow were little changed on Wednesday as gains in technology stocks were offset by losses in energy, ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates. However, the Nasdaq, which is more weighted towards technology stocks, was lifted by a 6.4 percent rise in Apple (AAPL.O) following the company's strong earnings and iPhone sales. A rate hike is not the likely outcome of the Fed's first meeting under President Donald Trump as the central bank awaits more clarity on his policies.But investors will dissect the statement, expected at 2:00 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), to see how the policymakers view the economy under Trump and whether a recent spate of strong economic data alters their take on futures hikes. "We're in a very stable market with a lot of cross-currents. Fourth-quarter earnings seem to be okay," said Chuck Self, chief investment officer at iSectors LLC in Appleton, Wisconsin. "However, political uncertainty is making it hard for investors to have conviction in the market."Investors has paid close attention to Trump's comments and decisions, which have caused volatility. His latest move to restrict travel to the United States unleashed uncertainty and losses on Wall Street in the past few days. At 12:57 p.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 17.9 points, or 0.09 percent, at 19,881.99, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 1.96 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,276.91 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 19.79 points, or 0.35 percent, at 5,634.58.
Investors hope quarterly earnings support valuations, especially after a post-election rally pushed Wall Street to record highs. Fourth-quarter earnings of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 7.1 percent - the best growth in nine quarters - according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. However, investors are struggling with the question of whether the rally has gotten ahead of itself, Self said. The S&P 500 is trading at 17.6 times forward 12-month earnings, above the 10-year median of 14.7 times, according to StarMine data.
The impact of robust private payrolls data also appeared to fizzle out.Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with energy's .SPNY 1.2 percent loss dragging the broader index.Utilities .SPLRCU, which pay high dividends and are considered bond proxies, lost 1.7 percent.
Dow component Exxon (XOM.N) slipped 1.4 percent after a string of price target cuts. The oil major had reported results on Tuesday.While Apple provided the biggest boost to the three indexes after its stock hit an 18-month high, Microsoft (MSFT.O) fell 1.6 percent and dragged down the S&P and the Nasdaq. Pitney Bowes (PBI.N) plunged 18 percent after the mail equipment maker posted fourth-quarter profit and revenue that missed analysts' expectations. Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,647 to 1,189. On the Nasdaq, 1,418 issues fell and 1,376 advanced.The S&P 500 index showed 30 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 106 new highs and 16 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)
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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2017 00:45 AM