Wall Street ends slightly up, trade choppy ahead of inflation data

FILE PHOTO: The Nasdaq Market site is seen in New York

By Ankika Biswas, Lisa Pauline Mattackal and Carolina Mandl

(Reuters) -Major U.S. stock indexes closed with modest gains on Wednesday after a choppy trading session, with investors holding their cards close to the vest ahead of a presidential debate and an inflation report closely watched by Federal Reserve policy makers.

"We're in this kind of holding pattern while we wait to see on Friday's personal consumption expenditure report to get more information," said Michael Green, portfolio manager at Simplify.

Leading chipmaker Nvidia closed up 0.25%, surging just before the closing bell to erase losses. Other megacaps such as Apple, Amazon.com and Tesla also posted gains.

Several economic data releases are due this week, leading to Friday's release of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge used to decide on the path of monetary policy.

The Fed has been projecting only one interest rate cut this year, in December. But investors see a 56.3% chance of a 25-basis point rate cut in September, and about two cuts by the year-end, LSEG's interest rate probabilities app showed.

At 04:00 p.m. the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16.10 points, or 0.04%, to 39,128.26, the S&P 500 gained 8.61 points, or 0.16%, to 5,477.91 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 87.50 points, or 0.49%, to 17,805.16.

"Investors are sitting on their hands, waiting for tomorrow's presidential debate and for additional economic news in particular this Friday's PCE," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

Positive earnings and benign inflation data could encourage more rotation from tech to sectors that have lagged this year, said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at the Carson Group.

Earlier this week, investors had increased bets on non-technology sectors.

"We're probably going to see this choppiness continue until there is a catalyst," said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.

Appliances manufacturer Whirlpool surged 17.1% after Reuters reported that German engineering group Robert Bosch is weighing a bid for the U.S. appliances maker.

FedEx jumped 15.53% after the delivery giant forecast fiscal 2025 profit above estimates, boosting the Dow Jones Transport index to its highest in over a month.

Apple rose nearly 2% after Rosenblatt upgraded the iPhone maker's stock to "buy" from "neutral". Tesla gained 4.81% as Stifel initiated coverage with a buy rating.

Shares of Amazon Inc rose 3.90%, bringing the company's market value above $2 trillion, the fifth U.S. corporation to cross that level.

Shares of major U.S. banks including Morgan Stanley , Citigroup, and Bank of America slipped ahead of the Fed's release of results from its annual banking sector stress test.

The broader S&P 500 financial index fell 0.47%.

Rivian soared 23.24% as German automaker Volkswagen said it will invest up to $5 billion in the U.S. electric-vehicle maker.

General Mills fell 4.59% after the Cheerios cereal maker forecast annual profit below estimates and posted a bigger-than-expected drop in quarterly sales.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.41-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. There were 106 new highs and 89 new lows on the NYSE.

The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows while the Nasdaq Composite recorded 41 new highs and 171 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.59 billion shares, compared with the 11.83 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas, Lisa Pauline Mattackal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Maju Samuel and David Gregorio)