Wall Street little changed as oil dips, health stocks rise

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near Wall Street on March 21, 2016 in New York City.
People walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near Wall Street on March 21, 2016 in New York City.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was little changed on Monday as a fall in oil prices hit materials stocks, offsetting a rise in healthcare shares.

Crude prices were slightly lower as hopes that top oil producers would reach an agreement to help tackle a stubborn global glut faded.

Investors have also been skittish following US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments last week urging caution on raising rates, which were in contrast with remarks made by some policymakers supporting more aggressive stance on rates.

While the Fed's projections point to two rate hikes this year, traders expect only one, according to the CME Group's FedWatch program.

"I think people are still kind of nervous of the US economy, global economy and the election. That uncertainty is going to remain with us," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St Petersburg, Florida.

Mr Brown expects stocks to trade mostly sideways and within a tight range heading into the corporate earnings season, as investors remain wary of the uncertainty plaguing the markets.

At 9.41 am (9.41 pm Singapore time) the Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.39 points, or 0.13 per cent, at 17,770.36, the S&P 500 was down 2.09 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 2,070.69 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 4.38 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 4,910.16.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by a 0.64 per cent decline in the materials sector.