Wall Street slips ahead of Fed decision

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks edged lower on Wednesday, with declines in biotechnology and insurers negating Apple’s gains after strong results, as investors await the Federal Reserve’s policy announcement.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The U.S. central bank is expected to stand pat on interest rates and investors will focus on the Fed statement, expected at 2:00 p.m. ET, for clues on the path of interest rates and its views on inflation.

Some expect the Fed to sound more hawkish on policy tightening, especially after recent data showed that the Fed’s favored gauge of inflation hit the 2-percent target rate.

The U.S. two-year Treasury yields US2YT=RR, most sensitive to monetary policy, hit a 9-1/2-year high after data showed U.S. private-sector payrolls for April came roughly in line with market forecasts, cementing expectations for a rate increase in June. [US/]

Despite U.S. companies being on track to post their strongest quarterly profit growth in seven years, worries about inflation and rising raw material costs have weighed on investors’ minds.

Apple (AAPL.O) was a bright spot, rising 4.5 percent after it posted resilient iPhone sales in the face of waning global demand and promised $100 billion in additional stock buybacks.

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Its suppliers Cirrus Logic (CRUS.O), Lumentum Holdings (LITE.O) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS.O) were all up between 2.5 percent and 10 percent.

“The market continues to be in a tug-of-war between the potential for higher interest rates, inflation counterbalanced by the potential for higher earnings and revenue growth,” said Phil Blancato, CEO of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York.

Investors kept an eye out for developments around U.S.-China trade talks as a Trump administration delegation is expected to visit Beijing on Thursday and Friday for talks with top Chinese officials.

At 12:44 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 31.53 points, or 0.13 percent, at 24,067.52, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 5.32 points, or 0.20 percent, at 2,649.48 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 0.42 points, or 0.01 percent, at 7,131.12.

Mastercard (MA.N) rose 3.4 percent after it reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, boosted by higher consumer spending on credit and debit cards.

The gains kept the S&P technology index .SPLRCT in the positive territory, up 0.4 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum was Snap (SNAP.N), whose shares plunged more than 20.5 percent, after the Snapchat owner fell short of Wall Street forecasts for revenue and regular users.

Biotechnology stocks also took a hit on Gilead Sciences’s (GILD.O) 7.3 percent drop after the company reported a lower quarterly profit as sales of its flagship hepatitis C drugs fell.

Insurers Metlife (MET.N), AIG (AIG.N) and Prudential Financial (PRU.N) were all down after disability insurance provider Unum Group (UNM.N) reported a lower-than-expected profit. Unum shares fell about 15.9 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 11 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 65 new highs and 32 new lows.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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