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US: Wall St flat as investors look for clues on rates

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street was little changed on Tuesday morning as investors looked for catalysts to drive the markets while keeping one eye on clues for the timing of the next interest rate hike.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen painted a rosy picture of the US economy at an economic symposium on Friday and said the case for a rate hike was strengthening, but gave little indication on when the central bank could move.

Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday, said the US job market is close to full strength and the pace of interest rate hikes will depend on how well the economy is doing.

Investors are awaiting a report on monthly payrolls data due on Friday to assess whether it supports the hawkish tone that Fed officials have taken.

"I think today is going to be flat to down a little bit, simply because of yesterday's strong move," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer of Commonwealth Financial. "Investors are going to need some time to digest that. It is a quiet week with a lot of people at the beach."

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The S&P 500 and the Dow snapped a three-day losing streak on Monday, helped by a lift in financials and commodity stocks after strong consumer spending data pointed to a pickup in US economic growth.

The dollar index rose 0.3 per cent on Tuesday, continuing to trade at a more than two-week high on higher prospects of a rate increase.

At 9:48 am ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 13.36 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 18,489.63.

The S&P 500 was down 0.62 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 2,179.76, while the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.66 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 5,233.99.

Five of the 10 major S&P 500 indexes were higher, led by a 0.56 per cent rise in the energy sector on the back of higher oil prices.

Shares of Apple fell 0.5 per cent to US$106.32, after European Union antitrust regulators ordered the iPhone maker to pay US$14.5 billion to the Irish government, ruling that a scheme to route profits through Ireland was illegal state aid.

The stock was the top drag on all three major US stock indexes.

Hershey dropped nearly 11.3 per cent to US$99.06 after Mondelez announced on Monday it was no longer pursuing an acquisition. Hershey's was the biggest percentage loser on the S&P 500.

American Airlines fell 1.7 per cent after Scott Kirby, its No.2 executive, left the company to join rival United Continental. United's shares jumped 4.2 per cent to US$48.91.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,541 to 1,114. On the Nasdaq, 1,415 issues rose and 862 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 58 new highs and two new lows.


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