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US: Stocks open lower

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks fell early Wednesday following a mixed earnings report from Apple and as investors awaited a policy statement from the US Federal Reserve.

Apple shed 2.1 per cent after reporting a 4.9 per cent rise in second-quarter profit to US$11 billion. But iPhone sales came in slightly lower than in the year-ago period.

The Fed was widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged, but the central bank's policy statement will be scrutinized for signals about a possible interest rate increase in June.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 20,918.02, down 0.2 per cent.

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The broad-based S&P 500 lost 0.2 per cent to 2,386.37, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.4 per cent to 6,072.10.

US private-sector employment rose 177,000 in April, according to payroll firm ADP, slightly better than expected. The data came two days ahead of the more closely watched Labor Department jobs report.

Mondelez jumped 3.6 per cent after reporting a 13.6 per cent increase in first-quarter earnings to US$633 million. Cost-cutting helped the food company weather shaky demand in key markets.

Cosmetics company Estee Lauder rose 4.4 per cent after reporting a 12 per cent jump in third-quarter profit to US$298 million, easily topping analyst expectations.

Gilead Sciences lost 3.4 per cent as it reported a 24.2 per cent drop in first-quarter profit to US$2.7 billion due to lower sales of two drugs to treat hepatitis C.