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US: Wall Street lower ahead of Fed minutes

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street was lower on Wednesday as investors awaited the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting.

The Fed left interest rates unchanged at its meeting last month but said near-term risks to the economy had diminished, leaving the door open for a possible rate hike this year.

Investors will parse the minutes, due at 2:00 pm ET (1800 GMT), for hints on when the Fed would next raise rates, in light of New York Fed President William Dudley's hawkish comments on Tuesday.

Mr Dudley, a permanent voting member and a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, said a rate hike as soon as September was possible given evidence of wage gains and a tighter labour market.

"There is a little bit of unwinding of the positions and some prudence and caution creeping into the markets, ahead of the Fed minutes," said Larry Hatheway, chief economist at GAM Holding AG.

The dollar index snapped a three-day rout on Wednesday, as traders boosted their bets on a rate hike. The move pushed oil prices lower.

At 9:33 am ET, US crude was down 0.9 per cent atUS$46.17.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 25.82 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 18,526.2, the S&P 500 was down 2.38 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 2,175.77 and the Nasdaq Composite index was down 6.42 points, or 0.12 per cent, at 5,220.69.

Six of the 10 major S&P 500 indexes were lower, with the interest rate sensitive utilities falling the most by 0.66 per cent.

Traders see an 18 per cent chance of a hike in September, up from 9 per cent before Dudley's Tuesday comments, while the bets jumped to 45.5 per cent from 37.4 per cent for December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Wall Street has been trading at record highs in the past few weeks, supported by better-than-expected corporate earnings and expectations of the Fed keeping rates low.

The three indexes ended lower on Tuesday after Dudley's comments.

St Louis Fed President James Bullard is scheduled to speak at a conference at 1:00 pm ET (1700 GMT). No major economic data is expected on Wednesday.

Target's shares dropped 6 per cent after the big-box retailer cut its full-year profit forecast.

Cisco fell 1.6 per cent to $30.62 after technology news site CRN reported the company is laying off about 14,000 employees or 20 per cent of its global workforce. The stock was among the top drags on all three major indexes.

Lowe's shares fell 5.5 per cent to $77.03 after the home improvement chain's quarterly comparable sales missed estimates. Rival Home Depot, which lifted its profit forecast on Tuesday, was off 0.3 per cent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,450 to 1,079. On the Nasdaq, 1,257 issues fell and 886 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed four new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and two new lows.