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US stocks little changed as investors eye Fed

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 11, 2014 in New York City
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 11, 2014 in New York City

Wall Street stocks were little changed in early trade on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to a policy announcement from the US Federal Reserve later in the day.

About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 2.02 points (0.01 percent) to 16,806.47.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 2.44 (0.13 percent) to 1,944.43, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 2.28 (0.05 percent) at 4,334.95.

The Fed announcement, scheduled for 1800 GMT, is expected to continue a plan to gradually end its stimulus program by further reducing bond purchases, currently at $45 billion a month.

But analysts will scrutinize Fed Chair Janet Yellen's news conference for any hint of changes to the trajectory for interest rates.

The Fed has consistently pointed to the middle of 2015 at the earliest time-frame for raising benchmark rates. But better unemployment and inflation data could challenge that time-frame.

The Dow and S&P 500 stand near record highs as investors juggle better economic data with concerns over worsening violence in Iraq.

Package-delivery company FedEx shot up 5.1 percent as fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $2.46 per share bested expectations by 10 cents. The results were boosted by higher shipping volumes and lower operating expenses.

Software company Adobe jumped 8.9 percent as second-quarter earnings rose 15.7 percent to $88.5 million on higher subscriptions to its "Creative Cloud" service. Revenues of $1.07 billion also exceeded the company's forecast of $1.00-$1.05 billion.

Amazon gained 1.1 percent ahead of its expected launch of its own smartphone. Analysts said the online retail giant's move could shake up the smartphone sector.

ConAgra Foods slumped 6.6 percent after disclosing that second-quarter earnings are expected to be 55 cents per share, below the previous forecast by five cents. The company cited disappointing results in its consumer foods segment, which includes the hot-dog brand Hebrew National and Peter Pan peanut butter.

Air Products & Chemicals, a supplier of industrial gases, rose 6.5 percent following an announcement it named Seifi Ghasemi as chief executive. Ghasemi has held senior posts with a number of industrial companies.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury declined to 2.63 percent from 2.66 percent, while the 30-year dropped to 3.43 percent from 3.45 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.