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US: Dow flat as Federal Reserve keeps rates low; Apple lifts Nasdaq

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[NEW YORK] The Dow finished little changed Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left the door open to lifting interest rates this year, while a surge in Apple shares lifted the Nasdaq.

The Federal Reserve kept key interest rates untouched on Wednesday but acknowledged improved economic performance, suggesting a rate increase could be on the horizon in 2016.

Apple jumped 6.5 per cent after reporting a 27 per cent drop in earnings to US$7.8 billion on a sharp fall in iPhone sales. But that was better than analysts had expected, and the tech giant pointed to gains in App Store sales and the successful launch of its lower-priced iPhone SE.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1 per cent to 18,472.17.

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The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.1 per cent to 2,166.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.6 per cent to 5,139.81.

Fed watchers noted that the US central bank expressed greater optimism about the economy and fewer worries about the effects of Britain's unexpected vote to leave the European Union. Even so, some analysts expressed skepticism the US central bank would lift rates before December.

Dow member Boeing rose 0.8 per cent despite reporting a loss of US$234 million for the quarter ending June 30, its first loss since the third quarter of 2009. However, the aerospace giant confirmed its target for 2016 plane deliveries and reported better-than-expected revenues.

Coca-Cola, another Dow member, dropped 3.3 per cent after it reported a 5.1 per cent fall in second-quarter revenues to US$11.5 billion, as sales slid in every region but North America.

Twitter plunged 14.5 per cent after it reported a US$107 million second-quarter loss and said monthly active users were 313 million, up three per cent from a year ago and only slightly more than the 310 million in the past quarter.

In non-earnings news, drugmaker Allergan rose 4.5 per cent after US antitrust regulators approved the sale of its generic drugs business for US$40.5 billion to Teva Pharmaceutical on the condition that Teva divests 79 products to other companies. Teva rose 1.6 per cent.

Molson Coors Brewing sank 5.1 per cent on reports that SABMiller paused integration work in advance of its planned merger with brewing giant AB InBev. Molson Coors was set to acquire SABMiller's 58 per cent stake in the MillerCoors venture as a component of the $103 billion transaction. US shares of AB InBev lost 3.7 per cent, while SABMiller fell 2.4 per cent.