US STOCKS-Wall St flat after two-day run; Fed on tap

Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:36pm EDT

* S&P 500 coming off two-day rally, near record close

* KB Home rallies after results, Adobe Systems falls

* Investors don't expect curveballs in Fed statement

* Dow up 0.1 pct; S&P 500 up 0.1 pct; Nasdaq off 0.1 pct (Updates to early afternoon, changes byline)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks barely budged on Wednesday as investors paused after a two-day rally and looked ahead to comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

The S&P 500 was within 1 percent of its intraday record high, though a drop in Adobe Systems shares weighed on the tech sector, and economic bellwether FedEx Corp hit a sour note in its outlook. Geopolitical concerns related to Ukraine also stayed in focus.

Adobe's stock fell 2.3 percent to $66.96 and was the S&P 500's worst performer a day after the maker of Photoshop and Acrobat software reported first-quarter earnings. FedEx posted results below expectations and gave a weak full-year profit forecast, but the package shipper said it had been significantly hurt by winter storms, and the stock slipped 0.3 percent to $138.21.

"Investors have to ask, with the market at record highs, are they willing to shake off subpar earnings in the face of potential geopolitical events unfolding? So far they're unfazed and relatively calm going into the Fed, but it won't take much to create some concern," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Fed is not expected to deviate from its path when it announces its policy decision in a statement at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT), but market participants will be attuned to the subsequent news conference from Janet Yellen, her first as chair, for any clue on the speed of future stimulus cuts, as well as how soon interest rates might be raised.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 10.17 points or 0.06 percent, to 16,346.36. The S&P 500 gained 1.23 points or 0.07 percent, to 1,873.48. But the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.217 points or 0.05 percent, to 4,331.096.

Equities have rallied this week, buoyed by easing geopolitical concerns, though trading volume has been light. The S&P 500 has climbed 1.7 percent over the past two days, the best back-to-back performance for the benchmark index since early February.

Ukraine's acting defense minister said the country's forces would not withdraw from Crimea after the region voted to join Russia in a disputed referendum.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia. While no violence was reported as pro-Russian forces took control of part of a Ukraine naval base, investors are concerned that tensions in the region could escalate.

In earnings news, KB Home shares jumped 7.5 percent to $19 after swinging to a first-quarter profit from a year-ago loss, helped by higher prices. Oracle Corp shares rebounded from early declines to edge up 0.1 percent to $38.87. Late Tuesday, the company posted third-quarter earnings.

First Solar Inc surged 17 percent to $67.24 and ranked as the S&P 500's best performer after the company gave its outlook for 2014 and 2015. (Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Find your dream retirement town

Florida? Hawaii? Reuters has teamed up with Zillow to give you the power to customize a list of your best places to retire.  Video | Full Article