U.S. stocks were mixed Wednesday at midday, but near record territory, as investors await a Federal Reserve policy update and parse earnings in the busiest week of quarterly results from American corporations.

How are stock benchmarks trading?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

traded 100 points lower, or 0.3%, at 34,954, after swinging in and out of positive territory.

The S&P 500 index

fell 2 points to 4,399, lower by about 0.1%.

Nasdaq Composite

rose 78 points, or 0.5%, at 14,738.

On Tuesday, the Dow fell 85.79 points, or 0.2%, to 35,058.52. The The S&P 500 declined 20.84 points, or 0.5%, to 4,401.46 to snap a five-session winning run. The tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 180.14 points, or 1.2%, to 14,660.58, its largest one day fall since May 12.

What’s driving the market?

Stocks struggled for direction as investors waited on the Federal Reserve to provide a policy update at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, with a news conference led by Chairman Jerome Powell to follow a half-hour later.

Investors are hoping for clarity on when the central bank will begin tapering its monthly bond purchases, though economists say that may not be forthcoming.

“If we hear today about more talking about tapering but without specificity, if we hear the word ‘transitory’ a lot, if we hear the word ‘patient’ often, and if we hear about delta throughout the press conference, I would expect a steepening of the yield curve again because bondholders don’t want to hear this in the face of the inflation reality,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in a Wednesday note.

Check out: Watch for the Fed to tiptoe toward tapering this week

And: Fed is walking ‘bit of a tightrope’ between downside risks and inflation

Read: Market fragility lingers as VIX climbs even with U.S. stocks rising to peaks, BofA says

Investors were bullish on the strength of second-quarter earnings reported thus far, with the earnings growth rate in the April through the end of June up nearly 80%, led by a 168% rate for the financial sector, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

Social-media group Facebook FB, online payments processor PayPal PYPL, chip group Qualcomm QCOM and auto maker Ford F will report after the close of Wednesday’s session.

In Asia, the selloff in technology stocks in Hong Kong and China abated on Wednesday, as the Hang Seng

closed 1.5% higher after consecutive drops of at least 4% resulting from unexpected regulatory actions by the Chinese government.

On the public health front, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that Americans — even those who are fully vaccinated — in parts of the country with “substantial or high” rates of COVID-19 go back to wearing masks in public indoor spaces as the delta variant of the coronavirus results in rising cases of COVID.

On the data front, the U.S. trade deficit in goods rose 3.5% in June to record $91.2 billion, and advanced U.S. wholesale inventories climbed 0.8%, while retail inventories increased by 0.3% last month.

Which companies are in focus?

Shares of Boeing Co. BA rose 5% Wednesday, after the aerospace and defense giant swung to a surprise profit, amid higher commercial volume and lower period costs.

Pfizer IncPFE shares rose 3.4% after the company said Wednesday that a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine likely provides further protection against the delta variant, which is more infectious and thought to be driving the recent surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S.

McDonald’s CorpMCD reported second-quarter net income totaling $2.219 billion, or $2.95 per share, up from $483.8 million, or 65 cents per share, last year. Its stock was down 2.1%.

Bristol-Myers Squibb CoBMY said Wednesday it swung to a profit of $1.055 billion, or 47 cents a share, in the second quarter, after a loss of $85 million, or 4 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Shares were up 1.7%.

Humana Inc. HUM shares skidded 6.8% lower after it reported second-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations, but maintained its full-year adjusted earnings outlook, while saying it expects to record a $1 billion gain in the current quarter on its ownership of Kindred at Home.

Tapestry IncTPR said Wednesday that it will raise wages for all U.S. employees to at least $15 per hour, effective Sept. 5. Its shares were 1.9% lower.

Apple Inc.

shares slipped 1.2% after the iPhone maker said profit nearly doubled, but also projected a growth slowdown.

Microsoft Corp.

shares were 0.1% higher after the software giant topped $60 billion in annual earnings for the first time at the end of a record-breaking year.

Alphabet Inc.‘s

Class A stock jumped 3.5% after the Google parent reported strong advertising sales that sent revenue and earnings well past analysts’ estimates.

Starbucks Corp. shares

fell over 2.5% after the coffee group swung to a quarterly profit, but also reported rising costs for Americas operations.

Walmart Inc. WMT said early Wednesday that it has partnered with Adobe Inc. ADBE to bring its technology to other businesses. 

Shares of Canadian cannabis company Tilray Inc. TLRY jumped 25% in trade Wednesday, after it swung to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter.

How other assets are faring

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

was up 1 basis points at 1.25%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.1%.

Oil futures gained, with the U.S. benchmark CL00 gaining 0.8% Tuesday at $72.25 a barrel, while gold futures GC00 traded flat at $1,800 an ounce.

In European equities, the Stoxx 600 Europe index SXXP closed 0.7% higher and London’s FTSE 100 UKX added 0.3%.

Elsewhere in Asian trade, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP finished 0.6% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei 225

fell 1.4%.

Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting

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