Stocks edge lower ahead of Federal Reserve policy decision

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks edged lower in early trading on Wall Street Wednesday ahead of the latest interest rate policy decision by the Federal Reserve.Health care and technology companies led the market lower as investors favoured safer holdings in the utilities and real estate sectors. Microsoft and Apple edged lower, dragging other technology stocks down with them.Johnson & Johnson and UnitedHealth Group fell 1.1 per cent, weighing down their peers in the health care industry.The market closed on a soft note Tuesday, ending a weeklong rally. The market is still off to a roaring start to the year. The S&P 500 index is up 12.6 per cent so far in 2019. That’s better than the full-year gains for the benchmark index in four of the past five years.Investors are looking ahead to comments from the Federal Reserve after its latest two-day meeting. The central bank has signalled that it will be “patient” in raising interest rates as it weighs a dimmer economic picture globally.Bond prices rose ahead of the Fed announcement. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.59 per cent.Investors are also digesting another snippet of information on trade talks between the U.S. and China. White House officials are saying that top U.S. trade and economic officials will visit China late next week for another round of negotiations. Wall Street is hoping for a resolution to the damaging trade war between the world’s largest economies, which has made goods more costly for companies and consumers.KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 106.2 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 25,777 as of 10 a.m. The S&P 500 fell 0.3 per cent and the Nasdaq composite 0.1 per cent.DAMAGED PACKAGES: FedEx plunged after the company told investors that weak economic growth and higher costs will continue to cut into profit and revenue.The package delivery company’s third-quarter profit fell more than expected as it dealt with slower economic growth and weak global trade. Revenue also fell short of forecasts. Looking ahead, the company cut its full-year profit forecast for a second time.RISING DOUGH: General Mills blew away profit forecasts for the third quarter as higher prices on some of its products lifted revenue.The maker of Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Pillsbury, has been facing tougher competition as consumer tastes continue to shift to healthier food options. The company has been working to build a broader mix of healthier products, along with raising prices on certain brands.The company now expects adjusted full-year earnings per share to be flat to up 1 per cent from last year’s $3.11. Previously it forecast a decline of up to 3 per cent.OVERSEAS: Germany’s Dax fell 1.5 per cent on bad news for several key companies. Automaker BMW projected lower profits for the year. Also, a U.S. jury found that Bayer’s Roundup weed killer contributed to a California man’s cancer. Other European indexes edged lower and Asian indexes were mixed.Damian J. Troise, The Associated Press

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