Wall Street opens lower ahead of Fed Chair Yellen's speech

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holding a press conference following the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, on March 16, 2016.
US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holding a press conference following the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, on March 16, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Stocks in the United States opened lower on Tuesday as investors awaited Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech and oil prices skidded nearly 3 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.53 points, or 0.13 percent, at 17,512.86, the S&P 500 2.04 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,035.01 and the Nasdaq Composite 10.83 points, or 0.23 percent, at 4755.96.

Crude oil fell about 3 per cent amid concerns that a two-month rally may be in danger of fizzling.

Ms Yellen, who is due to speak before the Economic Club of New York at 12:20pm ET (11:20am Singapore time Wednesday morning), will make her first remarks since the Fed's meeting in March.

The central bank has said it will depend on economic data before it makes a decision on rates, but several policymakers have voiced support for more than one increase this year. Investors will keep a close eye on Yellen's speech as they look for fresh drivers that could push stocks higher.

The S&P 500 is back in the red for the year after a five-week rally lost momentum as investors fretted about the state of the US economy amid global economic turmoil. "We are seeing a little bit of a pause here," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.

"I don't expect major volatility this week. I expect this quiet packing and filling to continue." The S&P has traded in a narrow range, not moving more than 1 percent in either direction in more than two weeks.