By Yashaswini Swamynathan
U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, although the Dow and the Nasdaq managed to eke out record intraday highs, as investors assessed a spate of strong economic data and awaited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony.Yellen's testimony before the House Financial Services Committee starts at 10:00 a.m. ET and comes a day after she said delaying a rate hike would be unwise, without indicating when the Fed would pull the trigger.Her testimony will be scrutinized for further clues on when the central bank might move, as will be comments by three Fed presidents at other scheduled appearances. Some Fed officials have said it would be prudent to move sooner than later.Also boosting the odds of a rate hike were strong reports that showed retail sales rose much more than expected last month, while the consumer price index notched its biggest rise in nearly four years as households paid more for gasoline and other goods.After the data, traders raised the odds of a hike in March to 26.6 percent from the 13.3 percent odds priced in before the data was released.Financial stocks, which benefit in a higher rate environment, again led the gainers among the 11 major S&P sectors with a 0.2 percent gain.
Yellen on Tuesday, before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, painted a largely upbeat picture of the economy, but also expressed uncertainty over economic policy under the Trump administration.At 9:40 a.m. ET (1440 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 20.25 points, or 0.1 percent, at 20,524.66 and the S&P 500 was down 1.31 points, or 0.05 percent, at percent, at 2,336.27.The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.02 points, or flat, at 5,782.55, easing from an all-time high of 5,785.39.The CBOE Volatility index was up 9.6 percent, on track for its biggest rise this month.
Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, led by interest rate-sensitive utilities and real estate sectors.Apple rose to a record high of $136.26 after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway increased its stake in the company.Shares of Southwest, United Continental, American Airlines and Delta rose about 2 percent after Berkshire reported investments topping $2.1 billion in each of the carriers.
Procter & Gamble rose 2.7 percent to $90.28 and gave the biggest boost to the Dow and the S&P after activist investor Trian Fund disclosed a stake in the consumer products company.AIG weighed the most on the S&P, slipping 7.7 percent to $13.78 after the commercial insurer reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,762 to 889. On the Nasdaq, 1,383 issues fell and 929 advanced.The S&P 500 index showed 43 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 56 new highs and seven new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)
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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2017 22:00 PM