US STOCKS-Wall St little changed ahead of next week's Fed meeting

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
US STOCKS-Wall St little changed ahead of next week's Fed meeting
Credit: © Reuters.

* Oil prices fall after Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) cuts forecast

* S&P poised for biggest weekly gain since July

* Zumiez falls after cutting third-qtr forecast

* Dow up 0.08 pct, S&P down 0.13 pct, Nasdaq down 0.08 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Tanya Agrawal

Sept 11 (Reuters) - Wall Street was little changed in choppy trading on Friday as economic data further clouded the outlook for interest rates ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week.

Still, the S&P 500 was poised for its biggest weekly gain since July.

Gains in health stocks helped offset declines in the energy sector. Gilead GILD.O was the biggest boost to the S&P and the Nasdaq after the company's $10 billion debt offering this week fueled speculation that it was planning a big acquisition.

Stocks have been volatile since China devalued its currency in August amid concerns of sputtering growth in the world's second-largest economy. The S&P 500 has had moves of at least 1 percent in 11 sessions since Aug. 20.

Investors pulled another $15.9 billion from U.S. equities over the past week as they sought safety in government bond funds, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) Merrill Lynch said.

The Fed has said it will raise rates for the first time since 2006 when it sees a sustained economic recovery with special emphasis on the job market and inflation.

Data on Friday showed that U.S. consumer sentiment dropped to its lowest level in a year in early September, while unchanged producer prices for August pointed to moderate economic growth and tame inflation.

The data stood in contrast to signs that the labor market is tightening.

"There is a lot of uncertainty going into the weekend before the Fed meeting," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW ) in Austin, Texas.

"The volatility will remain till the Fed meeting and if it decides not to raise interest rates next week, the volatility will continue and maybe get worse for a lot longer."

Considering volatile global equities, increasing uncertainty over China and emerging markets as well as an easing of policy by other major central banks, it could be a high bar for the Fed to raise rates next week.

"Given that markets have done much of the Fed's 'dirty work', we expect Fed officials to be on hold at least until December," Goldman Sachs U.S. economists wrote in a note to clients.

At 13:26 ET (1726 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 13.4 points, or 0.08 percent, at 16,343.8, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 2.45 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,949.84 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 3.98 points, or 0.08 percent, at 4,792.27.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher with the health index's .SPXHC 0.46 percent rise leading the advancers. The energy index .SPNY fell 1.46 percent.

Oil prices were down more than 1 percent after Goldman Sachs slashed its crude oil forecasts, citing oversupply and concerns over China's economy. Goldman said crude oil could fall as low as $20 a barrel. Schlumberger SLB.N and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) COP.N were down more than 1.5 percent.

Zumiez ZUMZ.O fell 27.9 percent to $15.62 after the sports apparel and accessories maker forecast third-quarter sales and profit below analysts' estimates.

Marvell Technology MRVL.O fell 16.3 percent to $8.83 and was set for its sharpest one-day drop in more than 14 years after the company said it is investigating its accounting related to the recognition of certain revenues in the second quarter.

Kroger (NYSE: KR ) KR.N was up 5 percent at $37.17 after the biggest U.S. supermarket operator's quarterly profit beat expectations.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,679 to 1,282. On the Nasdaq, 1,480 issues fell and 1,222.

The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 23 new highs and 70 new lows.

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