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US: Stocks steady as Fed minutes support December hike


[NEW YORK] Wall Street markets were steady on Wednesday as minutes to the Federal Reserve's last meeting supported a December rate hike.

Traders shrugged off more strengthening in the dollar and higher Treasury bond yields, after both contributed to Tuesday's losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.1 per cent at 18,144.20.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.1 per cent to 2,139.18, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.2 per cent to 5,239.02.

The minutes to the Fed's September meeting said the policy-makers' decision to hold off on raising the benchmark federal funds rate was a "close call." Stocks and the dollar were unbudged by that news; for many a December rate increase is a given.

"It's been a mixed day; obviously the big news today was the release of the Fed minutes," said Bill Lynch of Hinsdale Associates.

"Looks like some of the members are a little more hawkish and want to raise rates. I think it's a foregone conclusion they're going to raise rates by a quarter of one percent in December."

In the meantime, traders focused on the glum forecasts for the third quarter earnings season.

"Wall Street analysts are expecting a fifth sequential quarterly decline" in S&P 500 company earnings, said Sam Stovall at market research house CFRA.

Apple jumped 0.9 per cent as investors expect iPhone sales to surge after Samsung was forced to cancel production of its battery-fire prone Galaxy Note 7.

Health insurer Humana tumbled 5.1 per cent after it received a downgraded rating from Medicaid that could lower its reimbursements from the federal program.

Oil sector shares fell as crude prices fell more than one per cent. ExxonMobil lost 0.7 per cent and Chevron shed 0.9 per cent.

Networking giant Cisco lost 2.3 per cent on unexpected news that the company's chief technology officer, Zorawar Biri Singh, will leave at the end of this month. There was no reason given for Mr Singh's sudden departure.