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US STOCKS-Wall Street flat as Fed minutes draw near
November 22, 2017 / 6:05 PM / 19 days ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street flat as Fed minutes draw near

* Minutes of Fed Oct meeting due at 2:00 pm ET

* Tech stock drop after two days of gains

* U.S. crude at 2-year highs, boosting energy stocks

* HPE shares sink after Whitman says to leave CEO post

* Dow off 0.31 pct, S&P down 0.10 pct, Nasdaq up 0.03 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar

Nov 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks treaded water on Wednesday as technology and energy stocks battled for influence, ahead of the release of the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The S&P technology index fell 0.37 percent, after two days of gains, led by losses in Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.

The energy index rose 0.44 percent as U.S. crude prices jumped 1.5 percent, easing only slightly from more than two year highs after data showed U.S. crude stocks declined largely in line with expectations.

The Fed minutes will be scrutinized for policymakers’ view on inflation for more clarity on what they might do under a new chair next year, especially after outgoing Chair Janet Yellen’s comments a day earlier.

Yellen said she still expects inflation to rebound soon, but was “very uncertain” if that would happen and was open to the possibility that prices could remain low for years.

“The market is going to look at the minutes with an eye towards confirming what Yellen said,” said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at GlobAlt Investments in Atlanta, Georgia.

“If the body language on inflation is more uncertain then that would provide for a slower rate path, that’s good for the market.”

A final quarter-point rise under Yellen next month is almost fully baked in. The pace of hikes have also been slow enough not to scare investors who have thrived on a decade of cheap money.

The S&P 500 is up about 16 percent this year so far. The benchmark index was down 2.5 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,596.53 in the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.31 percent at 23,517 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.76 points, or 0.03 percent, at 6,864.24.

Trading volumes were thin ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and an early close on Friday. The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was down for the fifth session in a row.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chief Executive Meg Whitman said she would step down in February, sending the company’s shares down 7.8 percent, their biggest fall since the split of Hewlett Packard in 2015.

HP Inc, which holds the computer and printer business that Whitman carved out of Hewlett Packard, slipped 6.5 percent after reporting an unimpressive profit.

Tractor maker Deere & Co rose nearly 5 percent to a record high after reporting upbeat quarterly earnings and issuing a strong profit forecast for the year.

Salesforce fell 2 percent after the cloud-based software maker’s profit forecast slightly missed estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,541 to 1,232. On the Nasdaq, 1,552 issues rose and 1,229 fell. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)

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