Wall Street slips as investors fret about global economy

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was lower on Thursday, led by a fall in the telecom sector, as investors worried about the uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve's plans to hike interest rates, amid fears of weak global growth.

Minutes from the Fed's March meeting released on Wednesday pointed to concerns about the central bank's limited ability to tackle a global economic slowdown, reducing the odds of a rate increase before June.

While the Fed has projected two rate increases this year, the market is pricing in a near 60-per cent chance of a hike in December, according to CME Group's FedWatch Program.

The central bank's caution put pressure on the dollar as investors sought safety in the yen. "I suspect that what we're seeing here is a little market jitters due to the fact that the dollar continues to weaken,"said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York. "I think we will just stay in a mixed-to-holding pattern for the next day or two until the earnings season begins to move into full gear next week," Mr Cardillo said.

First-quarter earnings at S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 7.4 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

At 9.38 am ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 113.79 points, or 0.64 per cent, at 17,602.26, the S&P 500 was down 10.72 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 2,055.94 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 23.72 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 4,897.00.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by a 1.1 per cent fall in the telecom sector.