US stocks held back by energy companies' struggles

US stock indexes were mixed on Wednesday as energy companies declined along with oil prices but technology stocks rose and reversed some of their recent losses.

After O'Reilly Automotive reported weak sales growth in the second quarter, the three biggest losers on the Standard & Poor's 500 index were all auto parts companies.

An eight-day rally in US crude oil prices ended with a thud and energy companies took sharp losses. Retailers and small, domestically-focused companies also struggled.

Technology companies bucked the trend and finished higher. Those companies have hit a wall in the last month.

Banks and industrial and healthcare companies also rose on another quiet day of trading after the Independence Day holiday.

The Federal Reserve is trying to decide when it will start letting its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio shrink. Some Fed officials want to announce the start of that process within a few months, according to minutes from the central bank's June meeting, while others want to wait longer.

"The Fed seems to be a little bit divided over what it's going to do," said Doug Burtnick, deputy head of North American equities for Aberdeen Asset Management.

He said that division makes investors put more emphasis on economic reports and other data.

"You're going to see a lot of pieces as early as next week because that's when you're going to start seeing a lot of earnings reports from banks," Mr Burtnick added, and Wall Street will get a clearer view of how much money banks are lending.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 4.55 points, or 0.2%, to 2,432.54.

The Dow Jones industrial average slid 1.10 points to 21,478.17. Nasdaq composite rose 40.80 points, or 0.7%, to 6,150.86. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks sank 6.54 points, or 0.5%, to 1,420.15.

- AP

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