September 25, 2018 / 2:28 PM / 2 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St flat as losses in Facebook, chip stocks offset bank, energy gains

* Banks stocks gain with Fed expected to hike rates

* Facebook drops as Instagram co-founders resign

* Chevron, Exxon gain as oil prices hit 4-year high

* Intel, other chipmakers hit by broker rating cuts

* Dow up 0.16 pct, S&P up 0.05 pct, Nasdaq off 0.01 pct (Updates to open)

By Amy Caren Daniel

Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday, as higher oil prices lifted energy stocks and banks rose in anticipation of an interest rate hike, but losses in Facebook and chipmakers weighed on the market.

Facebook fell 2.5 percent and was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq and the S&P 500, after co-founders of its photo-sharing app, Instagram, resigned with scant explanation for the move.

The energy sector jumped 0.72 percent as Brent oil prices shot to a four-year high, boosted by imminent U.S. sanctions on Iranian crude exports and the reluctance of OPEC and Russia to raise output.

Financials overall rose 0.25 percent, with banks up 0.4 percent, in anticipation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at the end of its two-day meeting later on Wednesday.

Bank of America, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup were all higher, also as yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. government bond held at the key 3 percent level.

But the Fed's third hike this year would make cash the most attractive it has been in about a decade, lowering the appeal of stocks, especially dividend paying companies such as utilities. The utilities sector slid 0.66 percent.

"Investors are concerned about the Fed meeting, in a sense that an acceleration of a higher rate cycle would be troubling," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"They are looking for statements that suggest a stable rate environment as opposed to faster increase in rates."

The Fed's guidance on the path for future rate hikes and its comments on the impact of the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China will also help steer investments.

At 9:55 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 43.00 points, or 0.16 percent, at 26,605.05, the S&P 500 was up 1.37 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,920.74 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.89 points, or 0.01 percent, at 7,992.35.

The Philadelphia semiconductor index dropped 1.18 percent, with most chipmakers lower after rating cuts by brokerages Raymond James and KeyBanc.

Intel, which was downgraded by Raymond James, fell 2.0 percent.

Nike was up 0.1 percent ahead of its quarterly results expected after market close.

CenturyLink tumbled 8.5 percent after Chief Financial Officer Sunit Patel left the company in a surprise move to join T-Mobile to oversee its integration with Sprint, both of which were little changed on the day.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.51-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.44-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 17 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and 12 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru)

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