Wall Street opens lower on weak GDP data, rate hike hints

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street was lower on Thursday as investors digested weaker-than-expected U.S. economic growth in the third quarter and the Federal Reserve's hints of a possible rate hike in December.

The Fed, which kept rates unchanged at its policy meeting that ended Wednesday, downplayed concerns about global growth and indicated confidence in the U.S. job market's recovery and the economy's capacity to absorb a rate increase.

Data on Thursday underscored the strength in the labor market, showing that new applications for unemployment benefits remained near levels last seen in 1973.

U.S. GDP growth braked sharply in the third quarter but economists said they expect growth to pick up in the current quarter given strong domestic fundamentals.

Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James Financial in Florida, said the biggest surprise in the Fed's statement was the disappearance of the reference to a slowdown in the global economy. "It's like they never said it," Saut said.

The Fed cited global economic uncertainty when it decided to keep rates unchanged at its September meeting.

Odds of a December hike increased to 43 per cent as of Thursday morning from the 38 per cent minutes before the release of the statement, according to the CME Group's FedWatch program.

At 9:34 a.m. ET (9.34 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 49.11 points, or 0.28 per cent, at 17,730.41, the S&P 500 was down 6.02 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 2,084.33 and the Nasdaq composite index was down 25.60 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 5,070.09.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the utilities sector's 1.3 per cent fall leading the decliners.

Saut said the market was likely to be driven by end-of-the-month rearrangement of investment portfolios by institutions, rather than by fundamentals.

Allergan's shares shot up 6.2 per cent premarket but were halted after the opening bell as the Botox maker confirmed it was in buyout talks with Pfizer. Pfizer shares were also halted.

GoPro slumped 16.5 per cent to $25.18 after the action camera maker posted disappointing results.

Deutsche Bank's U.S.-listed shares were down 7 per cent to $28.18 after the German bank announced a massive overhaul of its operations that includes 35,000 job cuts.

Starbucks, Western Union, LinkedIn and Electronic Arts report after the close.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,854 to 683. On the Nasdaq, 1,464 issues fell and 689 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed eight new 52-week highs and one new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 29 new highs and 22 new lows.