S&P 500 holds losses after Fed minutes; Dow hits record high

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U.S. stocks were modestly weaker on Wednesday after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting showed many of the central bank's policymakers said it may be appropriate to raise interest rates again "fairly soon."The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were in negative territory, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average held slight gains. The major U.S. indexes are trading around record highs, driven up since President Donald Trump's Nov 8 election by the promise of lower taxes, reduced regulations and higher infrastructure spending. The minutes of the Fed's Jan. 31-Feb. 1 discussion, at which the U.S. central bank voted to keep rates unchanged, also showed the depth of uncertainty at the central bank over the lack of clarity on the new Trump administration's economic program. Ahead of the release of the minutes, traders were expecting a 27-percent chance of a rate hike at the Fed's March meeting, and a 53-percent chance in May, according to Thomson Reuters data. Separately on Wednesday, Fed Governor Jerome Powell said it will be appropriate for the Fed to raise interest rates "perhaps relatively soon." Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the Fed will likely need to raise interest rates at an upcoming meeting.

Recent comments by Yellen and other Fed officials appear to suggest that the Fed could raise interest rates at its March meeting, but the "market is not there", said Walter Todd, chief investment officer with Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina."I don’t see anything in the minutes that changed that narrative," Todd said. The Fed "is trying to give itself maximum flexibility to move and the market is kind of stubbornly saying, 'You're not going in March.'"The Dow Jones Industrial Average . DJI rose 22.86 points, or 0.11 percent, to 20,765.86, the S&P 500 . SPX lost 2.54 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,362.84 and the Nasdaq Composite . IXIC dropped 6.03 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,859.92.

The Dow, which set a new intraday record high, was buoyed by a 3.7-percent gain in DuPont (DD. N) shares. The company is set to win antitrust approval from European Union regulators for its $130 billion merger with Dow Chemical (DOW. N), sources told Reuters. Dow Chemical's shares rose 4.1 percent. A solid corporate earnings season has also encouraged investors. Profits for S&P 500 companies are on track to rise 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the best quarterly growth since the third quarter of 2014, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Toll Brothers (TOL. N) shares rose 6.6 percent after the luxury homebuilder reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue.

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