US Stocks Waver Ahead of Fed Chair Speech

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks wavered in morning trading on Wall Street Wednesday ahead of a speech by Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, on the outlook for the economy and inflation.

The S&P 500 fell 0.2% as of 10:14 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 167 points, or 0.5%, to 33,685 and the Nasdaq rose 0.3%.

Major indexes have been unsteady as the economy and financial markets deal with stubbornly hot inflation and the Fed's attempt to cool high prices with aggressive interest rate increases. Still, the benchmark S&P 500 and the Dow are solidly on track to close out November in the green, which would mark their second straight monthly gain.

Treasury yields gained ground. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 3.79% from 3.75% late Tuesday.

U.S. crude oil prices jumped 3.3%.

Banks and industrial companies fell and weighed down the broader market. Bank of America slipped 2% and 3M fell 1.8%.

Markets in Asia and Europe were mostly higher.

Investors will be closely watching a speech Wednesday afternoon by Powell at the Brookings Institution for clues as to what the central bank will do next in its fight against inflation. The central bank has raised its benchmark rate to 3.75% to 4%, up from close to zero in March.

The goal is to make borrowing more difficult and generally slow the economy in order to tame inflation. There's a risk the Fed could slow the economy too much and send it into a recession.

The economy has been slowing but contains strong pockets that have given markets hope that a recession could be avoided. The government on Wednesday said the economy grew at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September, an upgrade from its initial estimate.

Consumers have continued spending, despite of inflation squeezing wallets, and the overall employment market remains strong.

There is hope on Wall Street that the Fed will slow the scale and pace of its interest rate hikes. The central bank has been very clear about its intent to raise interest rates until it is sure inflation is cooling.