November 1, 2017 / 5:33 PM / 2 years ago

US STOCKS-S&P, Dow flat ahead of Fed announcement

* Fed statement on policy meeting at 2:00 p.m. ET

* Estee Lauder biggest S&P gainer after results

* ADP Oct payroll increase largest since March

* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.06 pct, Nasdaq down 0.41 pct (Updates to early afternoon)

By Sruthi Shankar

Nov 1 (Reuters) - The S&P and the Dow were little changed on Wednesday, as investors awaited a statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve following its two-day policy meeting.

The central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged, but its statement will be scrutinized for pointers on future rate hikes.

“I don’t believe anybody in the world thinks the Fed is going to do anything with the interest rates now. What they may say about December or next year is what the market is watching for,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.

The meet is taking place amid speculations about the next Fed chief. The White House has said President Donald Trump will announce his pick on Thursday.

Trump is expected to choose Fed Governor Jerome Powell, who is seen as more stock-market friendly, sources have told Reuters.

At 1:23 p.m. ET (1723 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 22.84 points, or 0.1 percent, at 23,400.08, and the S&P 500 was up 1.43 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,576.69.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 27.33 points, or 0.41 percent, at 6,700.34, dragged by losses in Apple.

Apple was down 1.8 percent, the stock’s first decline in five days. The iPhone maker will report results on Thursday.

Wall Street’s recent rally has been supported by strong third-quarter results from technology and consumer companies amid concerns over stretched valuations.

“Earnings drive the markets, and they continue to be really good,” Kinahan said.

Third-quarter earnings have been largely positive, with 73 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported topping profit expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data. That is above the 72 percent profit-beat rate in the past four quarters.

Cosmetics maker Estee Lauder, US Steel and Garmin all reported strong results. Estee Lauder rose nearly 8 percent, US Steel 5.6 percent and Garmin 5 percent.

Investors also appeared to cheer a report that showed private employers hired 235,000 workers in October, the most since March and exceeding a median forecast of 200,000 among economists polled by Reuters.

The upbeat data comes ahead of the more comprehensive October jobs report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.

Seven of the 11 major S&P indexes were higher, led by gains in the energy sector after oil hit its highest since mid-2015.

Devon Energy, Concho Resources and Marathon Oil were the top gainers on the energy index.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,439 to 1,394. On the Nasdaq, 1,959 issues fell and 953 advanced. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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