Wall Street Little Changed As Fed Minutes Eyed
Stocks were flat on Wednesday, stalling after a four-day rally ahead of the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's June meeting.
The minutes from the June 18-19 meeting of the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), and perused by investors for any signs of the central bank's plan to trim its bond buying program.
"Folks will definitely be focusing on that. If nothing else it will be a reminder of what we heard a couple of weeks ago from the Fed in terms of the direction of the quantitative easing program and (let's) see if we can get any additional insights into timing of that," said Paul Mangus, head of equity research and strategy at Wells Fargo Private Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina.
U.S. futures were able to shake off earlier declines after China warned on Wednesday of a "grim" outlook for trade after data showed exports fell well short of forecasts but fueled speculation the China's central bank may ease policy in an effort to boost growth.
The S&P 500 .SPX has risen 2.4 percent over the prior four sessions, pushing the benchmark index to within 1 percent of its May 21 all-time closing high of 1,669.16.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 16.44 points, or 0.11 percent, to 15,316.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX added 0.62 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,652.94. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC rose 8.15 points, or 0.23 percent, to 3,512.41.
Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N) rose 3.2 percent to $66 after the discount chain posted quarterly earnings.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning, analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to grow 2.6 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while revenue is forecast to increase 1.5 percent from a year ago.
"Estimates have come down pretty sharply since March so expectations aren't that high. You may actually have some positive surprises this quarter because expectations are so low," said Mangus.
Nabors Industries Ltd (NBR.N) fell 4.9 percent to $15.22 as one of the worst performers on the S&P 500 after the owner of the world's largest land-drilling rig fleet, warned on Tuesday that its second-quarter operating profit would fall short of market expectations.
Fastenal Co (FAST.O) slipped 3.1 percent to $45.63 after the industrial and construction supply company posted second-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street expectations.
After the close, earnings are expected from fast-food restaurant operator Yum Brands Inc (YUM.N).
Technology shares .SPLRCT were the best performers, up 0.4 percent as Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) gained 4 percent to $26.48 following an upgrade to "buy" from "sell" at Citi.
Economic data showed wholesale inventories dropped 0.5 percent during the month, confounding the expectations of analysts polled by Reuters, who expected an increase of 0.3 percent as sales rose 1.6 percent.