April 10, 2019 / 5:15 PM / 2 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P 500, Nasdaq edge higher on tech gains; Fed minutes awaited

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* Boeing down for fourth day, weighs on industrials

* Fed's minutes from March meeting due at 2 pm ET

* U.S. consumer prices up by most in 14 months

* CEOs of big banks appear before Congress

* Dow off 0.10%, S&P gains 0.18%, Nasdaq up 0.45% (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal

April 10 (Reuters) - Technology stocks lifted the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq on Wednesday, ahead of the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its latest policy meeting, while a drop in Boeing shares kept the Dow lower.

The modest gains on the main indexes follow a U.S. Labor Department report that showed consumer prices increased by the most in 14 months in March, although underlying inflation remained benign against the backdrop of slowing domestic and global economic growth.

The report backed the Federal Reserve's decision last month to suspend its three-year campaign to raise interest rates.

"The news of inflation staying at healthy levels is good news because it gives the Fed time to be patient before they decide what they should be doing next," said Marco Pirondini, head of U.S. equities at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management.

"It supports the new dovish stance that they have taken despite the fact that employment market is so strong and that's supportive of risk assets."

The central bank will release minutes from its March meeting at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) that will give an insight into the Fed's thinking behind its move to suspend rate hikes this year.

Financials fell 0.16%, with bank stocks down 0.33%. Chief executives of some of the largest U.S. banks appeared before Congress, giving lawmakers their first opportunity to grill the lenders since the 2007-09 financial crisis.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co will kick-off the earnings season in earnest on Friday. S&P 500 banks are seen posting earnings growth of 1.9%, down from 8.2% estimated six months ago, according to Refinitiv data.

Industrial stocks were down 0.25%, as Boeing Co shares continued to weigh after the company on Tuesday reported zero new orders for its 737 MAX jet following a worldwide grounding of the aircraft in March. Its shares were down 1.1%.

At 12:54 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26.05 points, or 0.10%, at 26,124.53, the S&P 500 was up 5.10 points, or 0.18%, at 2,883.30 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 35.40 points, or 0.45%, at 7,944.67.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher.

Technology stocks gained 0.50%, helped by Microsoft Corp, Salesforce.com Inc and Intel Corp.

Conagra Brands Inc jumped 6.6%, leading gains on the S&P 500, after the packaged food company forecast upbeat organic sales growth for 2020.

The biggest decliner on the index was drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp, which fell 5.5% after brokerage Evercore ISI downgraded the stock to "in line".

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.88-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.05-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 21 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 55 new highs and 29 new lows. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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