* Expectations for rate hike unchanged after Fed minutes
* Humana biggest loser on S&P 500; Cisco weighs on Nasdaq
* Dow up 0.09 pct, S&P 0.11 pct, Nasdaq down 0.15 pct
(Updates after close, adds commentary)
By Sinead Carew
Oct 12 The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial
average indexes ended Wednesday's session with small gains as
expectations for timing on a rate hike were largely unchanged
after U.S. Federal Reserve minutes and investors waited on
Several voting policymakers judged a rate hike would be
warranted "relatively soon" if the U.S. economy continued to
strengthen, according to minutes from the September policy
meeting released Wednesday afternoon.
While keeping rates low has risks, the Fed decided it was
more risky to raise rates when they are concerned we might be
seeing a slowdown in economic growth, said Kate Warne,
investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.
"Unfortunately, they also didn't provide a lot of clarity,"
Traders have priced in small odds of a rate increase next
month as the meeting falls days ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S.
presidential election. The odds were still in favor of a
December move, but down to 66 percent from 71 percent the day
before, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.
With little news from the Fed, investors will see what
earnings look like before they buy more stocks, said Steve
Massocca, Chief Investment Officer, Wedbush Equity Management
LLC in San Francisco.
Overall, S&P 500 third-quarter earnings are currently
expected to fall 0.7 percent, marking the fifth quarter of
negative earnings in a row, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.54 points,
or 0.09 percent, to 18,144.2, the S&P 500 gained 2.45
points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,139.18 and the Nasdaq Composite
dipped 7.77 points, or 0.15 percent, to 5,239.02.
The biggest weight on Nasdaq was Cisco Systems,
which fell after rival Ericsson reported a
huge profit decline
Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 indexes closed higher, led by
real estate's 1.3-percent rise and a 1 percent
increase in utilities.
Investors in both yield-sensitive sectors may have feared a
more hawkish Fed, according to Peter Jankovskis, co-chief
investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle,
Healthcare and energy were the weakest sectors with an 0.55
percent decline in the S&P 500 healthcare index and an
0.41 percent decline for energy percent. Oil prices fell
after OPEC reported its September output at eight-year highs.
Humana Inc was the biggest loser on the S&P. The
insurer said a U.S. government health department cut its quality
rating on Humana Medicare plans, a move that could affect how
much the government pays it in 2018.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a
About 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges,
below the 6.77 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
(additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru;
Editing by Anil D'Silva and Nick Zieminski)