* Many Fed policymakers said rate hike may come 'fairly
* Dow index buoyed by DuPont after merger news
* Toll Brothers surges after quarterly results
* Dow up 0.11 pct, S&P down 0.11 pct, Nasdaq down 0.1 pct
(Updates to late afternoon)
By Lewis Krauskopf
Feb 22 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
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
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
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
"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 rose 22.86 points,
or 0.11 percent, to 20,765.86, the S&P 500 lost 2.54
points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,362.84 and the Nasdaq Composite
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 shares. The company is set
to win antitrust approval from European Union regulators for its
$130 billion merger with Dow Chemical, 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
Toll Brothers shares rose 6.6 percent after the
luxury homebuilder reported higher-than-expected quarterly
profit and revenue.
Shares of Garmin surged 6 percent and were the top
percentage gainers on the S&P after the GPS-devices maker posted
its fifth-straight quarterly profit and sales beat.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a
1.46-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.49-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 51 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 128 new highs and 27 new lows.
(additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru;
Editing by Nick Zieminski)