Weak oil shares pressure US stocks; Dow hits record

NEW YORK (AFP) - Petroleum-linked shares fell on Wednesday (Feb 22) on lower oil prices, pressuring US stocks, as the Federal Reserve minutes showed officials expect to hike interest rates "fairly soon."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 0.2 per cent to 20,775,60, a fresh record.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.1 per cent at 2,362.82, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index also shed 0.1 per cent to 5,860.63.

All three indices finished at records on Tuesday.

Fed officials said their outlook for the economy and interest rates had not changed much since December, when they indicated three rate hikes were likely this year.

However, officials cited "heightened uncertainty" about possible US policies that could lift inflation, hastening the need for rate hikes.

Analysts said the minutes contained no bombshells and continued to imply a policy of gradual rate increases in 2017.

Petroleum producers were weak, with ConocoPhillips dropping 2.2 per cent, and Chevron, EOG and Apache all down more than 1 per cent.

DuPont and Dow Chemical both jumped more than 3 per cent on reports the European Union could as soon as March approve their proposed merger.

Garmin, which makes information devices for fitness and navigation purposes, jumped 7.3 per cent after reporting a 10.2 per cent increase in fourth-quarter sales to US$860.8 million (S$1.2 billion).

Norwegian Cruise Line gained 7.1 per cent after reporting that fourth-quarter net income rose 89 per cent to US$72.2 million following the addition of new voyages.