Wall Street opens flat as Apple-led tech gains offset energy losses

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street was little changed on Wednesday as gains in technology stocks, led by Apple, were offset by a decline in energy stocks on the back of lower oil prices.

Apple was up 1.6 per cent, giving the three major indexes their biggest boost and rising for the third day in a row on reports of strong demand for the new iPhones.

The technology sector was up 0.38 per cent, one of the six gainers among the 10 major S&P 500 indexes. That was in sharp contrast to the declines in all sectors on Tuesday.

US stocks have swung wildly since Friday on contrasting comments from Federal Reserve officials on whether the central bank would raise interest rates at its Sept. 20-21 meeting.

The benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.4 per cent on Tuesday after having gained by a similar measure on Monday. The index had fallen 2.45 per cent last Friday.

"The market is preparing for the worst, which is a rate hike in the US, and hoping for the best," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey. "That mindset is causing back and forth swings in the past few days."

At 9:57 a.m. ET (9:57 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 12.95 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 18,079.7. The S&P 500 index was up 2.17 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 2,129.19. The Nasdaq Composite was up 15.14 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 5,170.39.

The CBOE Market Volatility index, known as Wall Street's fear gauge, has also spiked and dropped with the stock market's gyrations. The index was down 2 per cent on Wednesday. "There are also opportunistic traders out there, short-covering and bargain hunting with the mindset to trade shorter-term and that's what is causing those sharp moves," Mr Bakhos said.

Oil prices fell 1.15 per cent, sending the S&P energy index down 0.27 per cent.