US STOCKS-Wall St flat ahead of Fed minutes; retailers resilient

Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:48am EDT

* Lowe's pares losses, Target rebounds, after dim forecasts

* Hertz tumbles after withdrawing forecast

* Fed minutes due at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT)

* Dow up 0.08 pct, S&P up 0.02 pct, Nasdaq off 0.16 pct (Updates to market open, adds quote)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Aug 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed Wednesday after two days of gains, ahead of the release of minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting, as investors shrugged off bleak earnings forecasts from some retailers like Lowe's and Target.

Investors will peruse the Fed minutes, which will be released at 2:00 p.m. (1800 GMT), for clues on how soon the central bank plans to hike interest rates. At a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee in July, the Fed had trimmed its monthly bond-buying program by an additional $10 billion.

An annual meeting of top central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from Thursday through Saturday will also be eyed for possible insight into the path for U.S. monetary policy.

"We know what is going to happen this year, we are looking into next year and for that we need the sort of stuff that comes out of this conference," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

The benchmark S&P 500 is less than 10 points off an all-time intraday high of 1,991.39 reached on July 24.

Lowe's Companies shed 0.4 percent to $51.29, paring earlier losses after it cut its full-year sales forecast. The world's No. 2 home improvement products retailer reported better-than-expected second-quarter results.

Fellow retailer Target Corp rose 0.9 percent to $59.78, shaking off initial declines after second-quarter earnings fell shy of analysts' estimates and the company cut its full-year outlook.

The S&P retail index gained 0.3 percent and was on track for its fifth gain in six sessions.

Lowe's and Target "are companies with specific issues as opposed to representing what is going on in the broader retail market," Forrest said.

"(Target) has a path out of it, they've changed the leadership that brought these results and Wall Street is always willing to overlook someone else's results."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13.45 points or 0.08 percent, to 16,933.04, the S&P 500 gained 0.42 points or 0.02 percent, to 1,982.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 7.03 points or 0.16 percent, to 4,520.49.

American Eagle Outfitters was a bright spot in the retail sector after second-quarter results beat expectations and it forecast third-quarter earnings that were in line with the current estimate. Its shares climbed 7.1 percent to $12.41.

Hertz Global Holdings tumbled 10.8 percent to $28.15 after the rental car company withdrew its full-year financial forecast and said it expects 2014 results to be "well below" its previous guidance due to business challenges and costs. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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