Stocks Inch Higher Ahead of Fed Update

(AP) -- U.S. stock indexes rose slightly in early trading Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve's latest economic and interest rate policy update. Restaurant chains and specialty retailers were among the biggest gainers. Technology and financial companies fell. Several packaged food companies also declined. Oil prices were headed higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up less than 1 point to 2,506 as of 10:49 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 7 points to 22,378. The Nasdaq composite lost 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,456. The three indexes hit record highs on Tuesday. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was up 1 point to 1,441.

FED WATCH: At the end of its two-day meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve was widely expected to announce it will begin to reduce its enormous bond portfolio, which stands at $4.5 trillion. That will gradually increase long-term borrowing rates. After leaving its benchmark rate at a record low for seven years after the 2008 crisis, the Fed has modestly raised it four times since December 2015 to a still-low range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

TECH SLIDE: Technology companies declined. Apple fell $2.18, or 1.4 percent, to $156.55. Western Digital slid $4.69, or 5.2 percent, to $85.23.

BEYOND DISAPPOINTED: Shares in Bed Bath and Beyond plunged 15.5 percent after the home goods retailer reported that its latest quarterly sales at stores open at least a year, a key metric for retailers, fell short of analysts' forecasts. The stock lost $4.20 to $22.83.

HURRICANE IMPACT: The National Association of Realtors said that sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell 1.7 percent in August. Sales were hurt by a worsening shortage of homes for sale, a trend exacerbated by the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey's strike on Texas and Louisiana last month. Over the past 12 months, U.S. home sales have risen only 0.2 percent. The report pulled down homebuilder shares. Hovnanian Enterprises was down the most, losing 4 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $1.72.

CLOUD CONCERNS: Adobe Systems fell 4.7 percent. While the business software company posted solid quarterly results, investors were concerned about the performance of its cloud business. The stock slid $7.34 to $149.26.

UNAPPETIZING RESULTS: General Mills tumbled 5.1 percent after the cereal maker's latest quarterly results fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The stock was down $2.80 to $52.58. General Mills' woes were weighing on other food companies. Kellogg was off 55 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $65.32, while Campbell Soup lost $1.24, or 2.6 percent, to $46.08. J.M. Smucker shed $1.86, or 1.7 percent, to $107.65.

BIG GAINERS: Some retailers and restaurant chains were trading higher. AutoZone jumped $12.11, or 2.3 percent, to $547.30, while Yum Brands gained 67 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $76.43.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.23 percent from 2.25 percent late Tuesday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 76 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $50.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up $1, or 1.8 percent, to $56.14 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 111.47 yen from 111.50 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1996 from $1.1997.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent, while the CAC 40 in France was flat. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was off 0.1 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.1 percent and South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.4 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.1 percent.

(BE)