(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq drifted just below record highs on Wednesday, with investors on edge before potential hints from the Federal Reserve on when it would taper its massive monetary stimulus.
The Fed has previously tried to assuage concerns that rising inflation would prompt it to tighten its ultra-loose monetary policy, but data on Tuesday showing a jump in producer prices has again raised expectations the central bank could begin debating closing the taps at its meeting this week.
Inflation concerns have dominated markets in recent weeks even as strong corporate earnings and the gradual reopening of the U.S. economy have helped the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq reach all-time highs.
“All eyes are really on consideration of tapering,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.
“My guess is it’s likely not today’s business and more in line with August’s Kansas City, Jackson Hole summit where they might introduce the concept of timing around tapering but you never know.”
The central bank’s latest policy statement is expected to be released with fresh economic projections at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).
Interest rate-sensitive bank stocks shed about 1.9%, tracking a dip in the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield. [/US]
On the other hand, technology , utilities and healthcare were in a bright spot.
At 9:52 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 44.55 points, or 0.13%, at 34,254.78 and the S&P 500 was down 0.74 points, or 0.02%, at 4,245.85. The Nasdaq Composite was up 41.27 points, or 0.29%, at 14,114.12.
Oracle Corp dropped 6.0% trading as the business software maker forecast current-quarter profit below Wall Street estimates.
New York-listed shares of Chinese private tutoring companies New Oriental Education & Technology Group, TAL Education Group and Gaotu Techedu Inc fell between 7.3% and 9.0% after a Reuters report that China was poised to unveil a much tougher-than-anticipated crackdown on the industry.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.45-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 17 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 37 new highs and five new lows.
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