August 22, 2018 / 4:04 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P edges higher amid caution on Trump, trade and Fed

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* Industrial stocks drop ahead of U.S.-China trade talks

* Target, Lowe's rise after results, boost other retailers

* Tech stocks boost market; oil gains help energy stocks

* Manafort and Cohen's legal woes add uncertainty

* Bank stocks flat ahead of Fed minutes at 2 pm ET

* Indexes: Dow flat, S&P up 0.16 pct, Nasdaq up 0.42 pct (Changes comment, updates prices)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Aug 22 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 marked its longest bull-market run with slight gains on Wednesday, although caution prevailed ahead of trade talks, the Federal Reserve's minutes and the threat to President Donald Trump's position due to the legal woes of two ex-advisers.

The benchmark index's bull run has now stretched for 3,453 days, the longest streak by commonly-used definitions, and comes a day after it hit a record intraday high.

Four of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with energy stocks gaining 1.17 percent as oil prices jumped. Retailers rose on Target and Lowe's results, but the biggest boost came from technology stocks, which rose 0.47 percent.

On the flip side, the trade-sensitive industrial sector fell 0.64 percent ahead of Sino-U.S. trade talks. The defensive utilities, telecom and real estate sectors dropped between 0.70 percent and 1.63 percent.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud charges on Tuesday evening, while Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a range of charges and said he acted at the direction of Trump.

Investors are considering whether the twin setback will hurt the Republican Party's election prospects and widen a criminal probe that has overshadowed Trump's presidency.

Also on tap are the minutes of the Fed's August policy meeting, due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). The report is expected to reaffirm the central bank's commitment to future rate hikes, which Trump has been critical about.

The KBW bank index was flat.

"Investors are curious to see whether Trump will get involved and try to derail the expected rate hike or will we see the politicization of the Fed," said Josh Jalinski, president of Jalinski Advisory Group in Toms River, New Jersey.

"Since (the S&P) hit a high yesterday, I'd expect some choppiness in trade today, but nothing that would affect the market in the long run."

As the S&P has climbed in the past few days to its record, more stock have been hitting 52-week highs, while there have been no new 52-week lows so far this week.

At 11:43 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.75 points, or flat on a percentage basis, at 25,823.04.

The S&P 500 was up 4.48 points, or 0.16 percent, at 2,867.44 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 32.85 points, or 0.42 percent, at 7,892.02.

The consumer discretionary index climbed 0.44 percent. Strong results from retailers Target and Lowe's sent their shares to record highs.

Target was up 5.5 percent after beating quarterly estimates and raising its full-year profit forecast.

Lowe's surged nearly 8 percent after the home improvement chain promised to cut back slow-moving products and unsuccessful business projects.

Urban Outfitters rose 5.2 percent and furniture maker La-Z-Boy jumped 12.8 percent after their results topped Wall Street estimates. Both stocks hit all-time highs.

The S&P index recorded 18 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 17 new lows.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.17-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.52-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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