(Updates to early afternoon, changes comment)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Sept 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday afternoon ahead of a key statement by the Federal Reserve which is expected to provide clues on the next monetary policy move in the world's largest economy.
Materials shares were posting the largest gains among top sectors, with DuPont up 4.5 percent at $68.78 after activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management urged the company to separate its high-growth businesses from those with strong cash flows.
The broader market was focused on the Fed as it concludes a two-day policy meeting. The U.S. central bank is expected to provide indications on how soon and at what rate it may lift interest rates, as it prepares for a shift in stance after years of keeping them near-zero.
The Fed will release a statement at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) and a news conference will follow half an hour later.
"We are in a holding pattern until we hear the 2 o'clock news, but more importantly the markets are going to hold off on any meaningful directional trade for the press conference," said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York.
"Markets are still trying to get a handle on (Fed Chair Janet Yellen's) approach, other than what is already known - that is, she has been historically quite dovish. Markets are really interested in seeing how she manages this transition," Kenny said about the Fed's impending policy shift.
The Dow Jones industrial average was rising 3.95 points, or 0.02 percent, to 17,135.92, the S&P 500 was losing 0.95 points, or 0.05 percent, to 1,998.03 and the Nasdaq Composite was adding 0.25 points, or 0.01 percent, to 4,553.01.
The largest percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange was Hyperdynamcs, up 20.79 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Rackspace Hosting, down 16.13 percent after the cloud management services provider said it would not sell itself.
Among the most active stocks on the NYSE were Petrobras , up 1.37 percent to $17.75; Bank of America, up 0.06 percent to $16.72, and Civitas Solutions, down 4.65 percent to $16.21.
On the Nasdaq, Apple, unchanged at $100.88; Net Element Inc, up 25.0 percent to $3.25, and Yahoo , down 0.5 percent to $42.52, were among the most actively traded.
Net Element announced it will make it possible for customers to use Apple Pay by integrating Apple services into its point-of-sale payment acceptance hardware and software.
Advancing issues were outnumbering declining ones on the NYSE by 1,658 to 1,331, for a 1.25-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,526 issues were rising and 1,095 falling for a 1.39-to-1 ratio.
The broad S&P 500 index was posting 38 new 52-week highs and 7 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 44 new highs and 36 new lows. (Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Bernadette Baum)