* Fed minutes scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. ET
* Fed fund futures steady at 83 pct odds of June rate hike
* Lowe's and Tiffany drop on disappointing results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.06 pct, Nasdaq 0.15 pct
(Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
May 24 U.S. stocks were modestly higher early on
Wednesday afternoon, aiming for a fifth straight day of gains,
ahead of the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting
that could cement the chances of a widely expected interest rate
hike next month.
U.S. interest rates futures were steady ahead of the
minutes, due at 2 p.m. ET (1600 GMT). Fed funds futures implied
traders priced in about an 83 percent chance of a rate hike in
June, little changed from Tuesday's close.
Investors are also awaiting more details regarding the Fed
trimming its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.
"The real take from the Fed is that a June rate hike still
seems to pretty much baked in the cake, but I'm going to be
looking at guidance as how they expect to start spending down
their excess assets," said Brad McMillan, chief investment
officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Massachusetts.
While recent economic data has been mixed, with signs of a
dip in consumer sentiment and spending, the job market continues
to strengthen. That could give the Fed impetus to continue with
its path of monetary tightening.
At 13:02 a.m. ET (1702 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 31.98 points, or 0.15 percent, at 20,969.89, the
S&P 500 was up 1.51 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,399.93
and the Nasdaq Composite was up 9.51 points, or 0.15
percent, at 6,148.23.
Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, led by
the materials index's 0.63 percent rise.
Energy fell 0.49 percent after oil prices retreated
on a smaller-than-expected draw in U.S. gasoline stocks as
investors await the outcome of a meet between OPEC and other
oil-exporting countries on whether to extend output cuts.
General Electric was off 1.8 percent and was the
biggest drag on the S&P after the company said its profit
forecast was at the high end of expectations.
The retail sector continued to issue disappointing results.
Lowe's dropped 3.1 percent after the home
improvement chain reported a lower-than-expected profit and
Jewelry retailer Tiffany sank 7.9 percent after
posting a surprise drop in comparable sales. Signet Jewelers
, which reports on Thursday, was down 7.2 percent. The
two were the biggest losers on the S&P.
At the other end was Intuit, which jumped 7.5
percent after the tax-preparation software maker posted a profit
topped estimates and also raised its revenue forecast.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,431
to 1,404. On the Nasdaq, 1,413 issues fell and 1,313 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed 39 new 52-week highs and 10 new
lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 76 new highs and 45 new lows.
(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio