Wall Street flat with Powell’s testimony in focus

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(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday, with losses in media stocks weighing on major indexes, while investors braced for Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s first congressional testimony. Powell hinted in prepared remarks that the central bank would stick to its current path of gradual rate hikes despite the added stimulus of tax cuts and government spending. Fed policymakers anticipate three rate increases this year, and Powell gave no indication that the pace needs to quicken even as the “tailwinds” of government stimulus and a stronger world economy propel the U.S. recovery. “Pretty much the market is going to be fluttering back and forth in both directions based on things he says today, so it doesn’t surprise me too much,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas. “It’s his first speech and the market is already in a higher volatility phase.” Powell’s testimony comes at a sensitive time for the markets, which have swayed wildly in recent weeks on inflation fears. Stocks have recovered much of their losses from the early February sell-off, when they shed more than 10 percent. At 9:43 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 0.08 percent at 25,730.88 and the S&P 500 .SPX rose 0.08 percent to 2,781.88. Slideshow (2 Images)The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC fell 0.01 percent to 7,421.09. U.S. cable giant Comcast (CMCSA.O) offered to buy Sky (SKYB.L) for $31 billion in an unsolicited approach, taking on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox and Bob Iger’s Walt Disney in the battle for Europe’s biggest pay-TV group. Comcast fell 5.2 percent, while Walt Disney (DIS.N) dropped 3.1 percent and Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) 1.9 percent. The stocks were the biggest drags on the S&P consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD, which fell 0.57 percent. The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yields US10YT=RR edged higher to 2.8569 percent, but were still off their four-year peak of 2.957 percent touched on Feb. 21. But the margin between U.S. shorter- and longer-dated yields narrowed. In a big week for retail earnings, Macy’s (M.N) reported higher-than-expected same-store sales growth for the fourth quarter. Its shares jumped 11 percent. Fitbit (FIT.N) slumped more than 10 percent after the wearable device maker forecast current-quarter results below estimates. Luxury builder Toll Brothers’ (TOL.N) shares rose 1.2 percent after it reported quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates as it sold more homes at higher prices. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,595 to 990. On the Nasdaq, 1,434 issues rose and 965 fell. Additional reporting by Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru and Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Anil D’SilvaOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Source: Reuters