* Yellen to speak on Friday, no new policy view expected
* Amazon to close Whole Foods deal Monday; Grocery shares fall
* Oil slips as U.S. refineries shut ahead of Harvey
* Dow down 0.05 pct, S&P 500 down 0.11 pct, Nasdaq down 0.04 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes byline, adds comments)
By Kimberly Chin
Aug 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday as investors cautiously awaited comments on monetary policy from central bankers gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Speeches from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Friday will be scrutinized for hints on the path of monetary policy, but neither of them are expected to give fresh guidance.
The central bankers’ views will be a departure from the past two weeks, when the stock market was roiled by concerns over geopolitics, mayhem in Washington, and President Donald Trump’s controversial comments.
Investors have managed to shrug off Trump’s earlier comments on Wednesday threatening to shut down the government if funds were not secured to build a Mexico border wall. U.S. officials are expected to weigh raising the debt ceiling by their late-September deadline or risk a default.
”We’re in an air pocket on a seasonal basis. We’re creeping up on Labor Day and we’re finished with the earnings period, said Mark Spellman, portfolio manager at Alpine Funds in Purchase, New York. “We’re used to major stuff going on and there’s not major, brand new things happening right now.”
Recent economic data has shown a mixed picture. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week, while home resales unexpectedly fell in July to their lowest monthly level of the year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10.64 points, or 0.05 percent, to 21,801.45, the S&P 500 lost 2.8 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,441.24 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.59 points, or 0.04 percent, to 6,275.82.
Oil prices slipped amid concerns over demand. U.S. Gulf Coast refineries shut operations as Tropical Storm Harvey was forecast to turn into a major hurricane.
Consumer staples, down 1.3 percent, were the worst performing of the 11 major S&P sectors, led lower by a 9.7 drop in J.M. Smucker after its posted disappointing results and lowered its earnings forecast.
The group also lost ground after Amazon.com Inc said it plans to complete its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc on Monday after winning antitrust approval from U.S. regulators on Wednesday. The announcement weighed on grocery store stocks such as Kroger Co , off 7.0 percent, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc down 1.9 percent.
Dollar Tree advanced 5.0 as one of the best performers on the S&P 500 after the retailer’s profit and comparable sales beat estimates.
Signet Jewelers surged 16.5 percent after the company issued results and said it would buy an online jeweler.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.22-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.52-to-1 ratio favored advancers. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza and Nick Zieminski)