Home Economy Dow Hits Record High at Open as Fed in Focus

Dow Hits Record High at Open as Fed in Focus

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                Dow Hits Record High at Open as Fed in Focus

U.S. stocks pared gains to trade little changed on Wednesday as a set of weak economic data weighed on bank stocks, while investors braced for a near-certain interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

Traders have placed a 91 percent chance of the central bank pulling the trigger on a second rate increase this year. The hike will push interest rates above 1 percent for the first time since the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Investors will also be looking for any details on the Fed's plans to trim its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

"It's a Fed day and the markets will likely not blink an eye as the FOMC raises rates by 25 basis points," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

At 9:45 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 9.23 points, or 0.04 percent, at 21,337.7. The index had hit a record intraday high of 21,354.56 shortly after the open. The S&P 500 was up 0.53 points, or 0.02 percent, at 2,440.88 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.88 points, or 0.03 percent, at 6,222.24.

The S&P 500 financials sector dropped 0.9 percent after the release of weaker-than-expected U.S. CPI and retail sales data.

The data also pressured the dollar index, which fell to its lowest since Nov. 9. However, defensive sectors such as utilities rose.

Energy shares, which have risen in the past three sessions, were off 0.74 percent.

A gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington on Wednesday, wounding several people including House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise, according to police and media reports.

However, Cardillo said the market seemed "unfazed" by the shooting.

Johnson & Johnson rose 0.6 percent at $132.76 after the company's flu drug succeeded in a mid-stage trial. The stocks provided the biggest boost to the S&P and the Dow.

Facebook, Mircosoft and Alphabet, which had been hit hard by a selloff in the tech sector earlier this week, rose for the second straight day.

H&R Block rose 8.8 percent to $29.39 after the tax preparation service provider's fourth-quarter revenue and profit beat analysts' expectations.

Aldeyra Therapeutics dropped 16 percent to $4.30 after the company said it failed to meet a goal in its conjunctivitis trial.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,356 to 1,247. On the Nasdaq, 1,345 issues fell and 979 advanced.

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