* S&P 500 coming off two-day rally, near record close
* Oracle falls after results, but KB Home rallies
* Investors don't expect curveballs in Fed statement
* Indexes: Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P 500 flat, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
(Updates to open)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, March 19 U.S. stocks were little
changed on Wednesday as investors paused following a sharp
two-day rally and looked ahead to comments from Federal Reserve
Chair Janet Yellen.
The S&P 500 was within striking distance of all-time highs,
though an Oracle Corp selloff weighed on tech shares,
and economic bellwether FedEx Corp sounded a sour note
in its outlook. Geopolitical concerns related to Ukraine also
remained in view.
Oracle was the S&P's biggest percentage loser, down 2.9
percent to $37.70 a day after it reported revenue below
estimates, dashing hopes for a sustained turnaround. 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 rose 0.7
percent to $139.64.
"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 2:00 p.m. (1800
GMT), but market participants will be attuned 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 was up 16.82 points,
or 0.10 percent, at 16,353.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 0.68 points, or 0.04 percent, at 1,872.93. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 7.43 points, or 0.17
percent, at 4,325.88.
Equities have rallied this week, boosted by easing
geopolitical concerns, though trading volumes have been light.
The S&P 500 has risen 1.7 percent over the past two days,
the best back-to-back performance for the benchmark index since
early February, putting it just 0.3 percent away from a record
closing high reached earlier this month.
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 it part of Russia, and 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 rose 8.9 percent to $19.25
after swinging to a first-quarter profit, helped by higher
prices, while Adobe Systems late Tuesday gave a
second-quarter revenue outlook that was ahead of forecasts, but
the stock fell 1.5 percent to $67.53.
JPMorgan Chase & Co said it would sell its physical
commodities business to Swiss trade house Mercuria for $3.5
billion. Shares were unchanged on the day.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)