Wall Street slips ahead of Fed decision

U.S. stocks were slightly lower on Wednesday, with declines in biotechnology and insurers negating Apple’s rise after strong results, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy announcement.

Expectations the U.S. central bank will sound more hawkish on policy tightening kept investors wary of big market moves, especially after currency markets were roiled this week by the dollar’s surge to 3-1/2-month highs against a basket of currencies.

The U.S. two-year Treasury yields US2YT=RR, most sensitive to monetary policy, hit a 9-1/2-year high after data showed U.S. private-sector payrolls for April came roughly in line with market forecasts, cementing expectations for a rate increase in June. [US/]

Despite U.S. companies being on track to post their strongest quarterly profit growth in seven years, worries about inflation and rising raw material costs have weighed on investors’ minds.

Apple (AAPL.O) was a bright spot, rising 4.1 percent after it posted resilient iPhone sales in the face of waning global demand and promised $100 billion in additional stock buybacks.

Its suppliers Cirrus Logic (CRUS.O), Lumentum Holdings (LITE.O) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS.O) were all up between 2.5 percent and 10 percent.

“The market is on a wait-and-see mode until the Fed announcement, as well as any implication out of China, Mexico, Canada with regards to trade,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

Investors kept an eye out for developments around U.S.-China trade talks as a Trump administration delegation is expected to visit Beijing on Thursday and Friday for talks with top Chinese officials.

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At 11:29 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 41.35 points, or 0.17 percent, at 24,057.70, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 4.35 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,650.45 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 7.77 points, or 0.11 percent, at 7,138.48.

“It’s refreshing to see Nasdaq leading the way even though everything is more or less flat … you’re seeing tech return to leadership category which is kind of what the market hasn’t had in the past several weeks,” said Bell.

MasterCard (MA.N) rose 2.7 percent after it reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, boosted by higher consumer spending on credit and debit cards.

The gains kept the S&P technology index .SPLRCT in the positive territory, up 0.52 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum was Snap (SNAP.N), whose shares plunged more than 17.9 percent, after the Snapchat owner fell short of Wall Street forecasts for revenue and regular users.

Biotechnology stocks also took a hit on Gilead Sciences’ (GILD.O) 6.1 percent drop after the company reported a lower quarterly profit as sales of its flagship hepatitis C drugs fell.

Insurers MetLife (MET.N), AIG (AIG.N) and Prudential Financial (PRU.N) were all down after disability insurance provider Unum Group (UNM.N) reported a lower-than-expected profit. Unum shares fell about 16 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.31-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.53-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded nine new 52-week highs and 16 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 56 new highs and 25 new lows.


 

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Author Sruthi Shankar

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