NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks closed mostly lower on Tuesday (Nov 29) as markets anticipated an appearance from Federal Reserve (Fed) chair Jerome Powell that could offer clues on the direction of monetary policy.

Powell’s address today (Nov 30) at the Brookings Institution comes as markets expect the central bank to soon moderate its policy of aggressive interest rate increases to counter inflation.

Investors were “hesitant” on Tuesday as they waited to see if Powell would indeed confirm such a shift, said LBBW’s Karl Haeling.

“Markets have a chance to trade higher (today) as long as he doesn’t deliver any surprise,” Haeling said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average veered into negative territory much of the day before ending essentially flat at 33,852.53.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.2% to 3,957.63, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.6% to 10,983.78.

The S&P 500 is headed for its second straight month of gains in November amid bets that recent inflation readings showing a slight cooling in prices will lead the Fed to scale back the scale of its interest rate increases.

Consumer confidence in the United States slipped for a second straight month in November, likely due to a rise in gas prices, according to a survey released by the Conference Board.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation estimated that 196.7 million Americans shopped in stores and online in the five-day stretch between last Thursday’s Thanksgiving and “Cyber Monday,” a better-than-expected result that highlighted the resilience of US consumers despite soaring inflation.

But the group warned of a “devastating” hit if there is a freight rail strike, backing a call from President Joe Biden for Congress to intervene in the matter.

Congressional leaders from both major parties expressed support for employing a rarely-used legislative power to avert a strike.

Among individual companies, Apple's stock dropped 2.1%, down for a fourth straight session.

Shares of Amazon, Nvidia and Tesla each lost more than 1%. – AFP, Reuters

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