US stocks steady as as budget impasse drags on

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks were mixed on Wednesday as the White House moved to convene meetings with leading members of Congress to seek an end to economic policy paralysis in Washington.

The S&P 500 and Dow were slightly higher, but the sell-off in tech stocks continued unabated from Tuesday, when the Nasdaq plunged 2 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 26.45 points (0.18 per cent) at 14,802.98.

The broad-based S&P 500 added a bare 0.95 (0.06 per cent) at 1,656.40, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 17.06 (0.46 per cent) at 3,677.78.

Markets took in stride comments by President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Federal Reserve, Fed veteran Janet Yellen, who said she would keep policy focused on boosting growth.

"More needs to be done to strengthen the recovery, particularly for those hardest hit by the Great Recession," she said as she accepted Obama's nomination.

Some tech stocks that have prospered in 2013 pushed lower. Netflix dropped 4.6 per cent, Amazon slid 1.7 per cent and Facebook dipped 0.8 per cent.

Apple advanced 1.2 per cent after announcing that its latest line of iPhone models will be launched in more than 50 new markets by Nov 1.

Hewlett-Packard, a Dow component, was another tech-sector standout, gaining 8.9 per cent after the company said during an investor day that it expects an "acceleration" of activity in 2015 after another year of transition in 2014.

Dow component Nike tacked on 0.9 per cent after projecting 2017 revenues of US$36 billion, up from US$25.3 billion in 2013.

Fast-food restaurant chain Yum dropped 6.8 per cent after earnings of 85 cents per share fell 7 cents shy of expectations, due in part to disappointing results in China.

Another restaurant chain, Darden Restaurants, jumped 7.1 per cent after a report that activist fund Barington Capital Group was pushing to break up the company, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains.

Men's clothing retailer Jos. A Bank surged 6.4 per cent after offering US$48 per share to acquire Men's Wearhouse in a deal that would be worth US$2.3 billion. Men's Wearhouse shares jumped 27.8 per cent to $45.03, but the company rejected the bid, which it said undervalues the company.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.65 per cent from 2.64 per cent, while the 30-year edged higher to 3.72 per cent from 3.70 per cent. Prices and yields move inversely.