August 1, 2018 / 5:04 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-S&P dips ahead of Fed decision; Apple keeps Nasdaq higher

* U.S. plans 25 pct China tariffs, industrials take a hit

* Apple hits record high after strong Q3 results

* Energy sector dips on weak earnings, lower oil prices

* Fed seen keeping rates unchanged

* Dow down 0.24 pct, S&P off 0.14 pct, Nasdaq up 0.23 pct (Adds comment, details; Updates prices)

By Amy Caren Daniel

Aug 1 (Reuters) - The benchmark S&P 500 index dipped on Wednesday, ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates, but Apple's robust earnings lifted the technology sector and the Nasdaq.

The U.S. central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged in an announcement at 2 p.m. ET. But solid economic growth combined with rising inflation are likely to keep the Fed on track for another two hikes this year.

"Most of today's sell-off is based on the what the Fed is going to do and where should markets sit before the Fed meets," said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

"The Fed has telegraphed its policies and its thoughts on slow and steady rate hikes and any hints of a faster pace would be a negative to the stock markets."

Apple's shares rose 5.8 percent to hit a record $201.32, inching closer to become the world's first trillion-dollar company after forecasting blowout current-quarter sales.

Its earnings provided some relief after results from marquee names such as Facebook and Netflix fanned worries about growth of the high-flying companies.

Facebook's shares fell 0.2 percent and was the only member of the so-called FAANG group to be trading lower. Netflix, Amazon.com and Google-parent Alphabet were trading up marginally.

The technology sector rose 0.86 percent. Only three of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher.

The gains were capped by worries about an escalation in the U.S.-China trade dispute after the Trump administration planned to propose tariffs of 25 percent, more than double the initially proposed 10 percent, on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods.

Beijing vowed to retaliate if the United States slapped further tariffs.

The trade-sensitive industrial index fell 1.07 percent. Caterpillar slipped 3.2 percent and 3M declined 2 percent. Both stocks were the biggest drags on the Dow.

At 12:50 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 61.64 points, or 0.24 percent, at 25,353.55, the S&P 500 was down 4.00 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,812.29 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 17.83 points, or 0.23 percent, at 7,689.62.

Also weighing on the markets was a 1.66 percent fall in the energy group due to a clutch of weak earnings reports and a fall in crude oil prices. Devon Energy dropped 5.2 percent, while Chesapeake Energy declined 7.7 percent after disappointing quarterly results.

Tesla fell 0.5 percent ahead of its results after the bell.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.44-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and 72 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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