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US: Stocks flat ahead of Trump press conference

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks treaded water early Wednesday as US investors traded cautiously ahead of President-elect Donald Trump's first news conference since the November election.

Trump's appearance follows revelations that US intelligence chiefs told the president-elect of unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence has gathered compromising information on him. Trump dismissed the controversy as "utter nonsense." Trump's news conference "could be a driver of things today," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

"No one knows for certain where the questions and answers will lead, so just about everything can be regarded as fair trading game at this juncture, which may help explain why there isn't a great deal of conviction among buyers or sellers in the futures market at this point." Questions about Russia also are expected to play a prominent role in the Senate confirmation hearing of former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 19,892.48, up 0.2 per cent.

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The broad-based S&P 500 was up 0.1 per cent at 2,270.32, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.1 per cent to 5,548.74.

United Continental advanced 2.9 per cent after it released December performance estimates that bested expectations due to improved booking.

Ford shed 1.7 per cent after it confirmed that it expects about US$10.2 billion in pre-tax 2016 profits. It said it expects "continued strong performance in 2017."