Stocks, Bonds Hold Steady Early

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks and bonds held relatively steady in early trading on Tuesday, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was wavering between small gains and losses.

Investors are waiting to hear from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who is scheduled to give testimony before Congress on monetary policy. In prepared remarks, Powell reiterated the central bank's plan to raise its key policy rate at a gradual pace.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 slipped 2 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,777, as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. It is coming off a three-day winning streak and is now down just 3.1 percent from its record high, which was set last month. The index had been down as much as 10 percent earlier this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average was little changed at 25,720, and the Nasdaq composite fell 4, or 0.1 percent, to 7,416.

FED SPEAK: Powell is making his first public comments as head of the Federal Reserve, and markets are intent to find any clues about whether the central bank will pick up the pace in raising interest rates.

The Fed increased rates three times this year, and investors are debating whether this year could see three or four more moves. The market got spooked last month when potential signs of inflation strengthened, which raised expectations that the Fed may become more aggressive and knocked stock prices down by 10 percent around the world.

In his prepared testimony, Powell said the outlook for the U.S. economy remains strong and that recent moves by Congress to stimulate spending should help inflation move up this year. But he also said that he expects inflation to stabilize around the Fed's preferred target "over the medium term."

YIELDS: Treasury yields were a touch lower following the release of Powell's testimony.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.85 percent from 2.86 percent late Monday. The two-year Treasury yield, which is more influenced by expectations for Fed movements, slipped to 2.22 percent from 2.23 percent.

REGISTERS RINGING: Macy's jumped to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the retail giant reported sales and profits that were comfortably ahead of expectations. It also gave a forecast for 2018 earnings that was higher than analysts expected.

Macy's surged $3.15, or 11.5 percent, to $30.60.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Stock indexes were mixed in Europe, with France's CAC 40 flat and Germany's DAX down 0.3 percent. The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.1 percent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.1 percent, South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.1 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.7 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 8 cents to $63.83 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, was flat at $67.29.

Gold dipped $2.00 to $1,333.80 per ounce.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 107.12 Japanese yen from 106.91 yen late Monday. The euro dipped to $1.2286 from $1.2312, and the British pound fell to $1.3902 from $1.3968.

(BE)