US stocks flat as market eyes Greece talks

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished little changed Wednesday as investors eyed ongoing talks on Greece's demands to renegotiate its international bailout as the risk of a debt default looms.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 6.62 points (0.04 per cent) to 17,862.14.

The broad-based S&P 500 was essentially flat, slipping a scant 0.06 to 2,068.53, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 13.54 (0.28 per cent) at 4,801.18.

Euro zone finance ministers heading into an emergency meeting in Brussels said they were ready to listen to Greece's plans for debt relief, but insisted that it must complete austerity reforms.

Investors were hesitant to make big bets with the Greece talks ongoing.

"It's just a back-and-forth day without a lot going on, because everybody is waiting to see what happens on Greece," said Mr Brent Schutte, market strategist at BMO Global Asset Management.

Beverage and snacks giant PepsiCo advanced 2.5 per cent after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of US$1.12 per share, four cents ahead of analyst expectations.

The company also announced a new share repurchase programme of up to US$12 billion (S$16 billion) to start in July.

One day after becoming the first company worth over US$700 billion, Apple rose another 2.3 per cent as activist shareholder Carl Icahn revived his call for the company to buy back more stock.

Food company Mondelez International gained 2.6 per cent as 2014 profit climbed 8.9 per cent to US$3 billion thanks in part to cost-cutting initiatives. The company warned the strong dollar will drag on results in 2015.

Furniture and housewares chain Pier 1 Imports slumped 24.3 per cent after it disclosed that holiday shopping results were "well below" expectations. It also announced that chief financial officer Charles Turner was retiring and would be replaced by Ms Laura Coffey, a 17-year veteran of the company.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2 per cent from 1.99 per cent Tuesday, while the 30-year fell to 2.57 per cent from 2.58 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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