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US: Nasdaq up, Dow down as Yellen warns on economy

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[NEW YORK] The tech-rich Nasdaq rose, but the Dow retreated on Wednesday as US stocks reacted indecisively to statements from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen highlighting heightened economic risks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 99.64 points (0.62 per cent) to 15,914.74.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped a scant 0.35 (0.02 per cent) to 1,851.86, while the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 14.83 (0.35 per cent) to 4,283.59.

Stocks initially got a boost as Yellen expressed more pronounced concerns than in her last public comments in December about global economic conditions and turmoil in financial markets.

But the gains eroded later in the session as Ms Yellen ruled out any cuts to interest rates and left the door open to further rate hikes this year.

"A lot of people thought it wasn't dovish," said Kenny Landgraf at Republic Wealth Advisors. "A lot of people were looking for her to back off."

Analysts said sentiment was also weakened by another drop in US oil prices after a US inventory report showed higher petroleum stocks at a key trading hub and lofty US oil production despite lower prices.

Technology stocks were generally higher, with Amazon gaining 1.7 per cent, Facebook 1.5 per cent and Priceline 4.2 per cent.

Disney posted the biggest decline in the Dow, falling 3.8 per cent as worries about declining operating profits at the ESPN sports network more than offset a record US$2.9 billion in quarterly net income following strong sales of its Star Wars blockbuster movie.

Other big losers in the Dow included IBM, which shed 3.1 per cent, and Caterpillar, which lost 2.8 per cent. Banking stocks JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs shed 1.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

Time Warner fell 5.0 per cent as fourth-quarter revenue came in at US$7.1 billion, well below the US$7.5 billion projected by analysts.

SolarCity plummeted 29.3 per cent after projecting a loss of US$2.55-US$2.65 per share in the first quarter, more than the US$2.36 forecast by analysts.


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