* Yellen to speak in New York at 12:20 p.m. ET
* Chipotle down after rating downgrade
* Tech stocks help Nasdaq eke out small gain
* Dow down 0.23 pct, S&P down 0.10 pct, Nasdaq up 0.41 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
March 29 (Reuters) - A decline in oil prices kept the S&P 500 and the Dow slightly in the red on Tuesday, minutes ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech on monetary policy.
Yellen, who is due to speak before the Economic Club of New York at 12:20 p.m. ET (1620 GMT), will make her first remarks since the Fed’s meeting in March.
The central bank has said it will depend on economic data before it makes a decision on rates, but several policymakers have voiced support for more than one increase this year.
Investors will keep a close eye on Yellen’s speech as they look for fresh drivers that could push stocks higher.
“The market is essentially expecting her comments to remain somewhat dovish, just like at her last press conference (in March),” said Tim Dreiling, regional investment director at the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank in Kansas City.
Shares of banks, which stand to gain from an increase in interest rates, were the biggest drags on the S&P 500, led by Wells Fargo’s 1.5 percent decline. The S&P financial sector was down 0.76 percent.
The S&P 500 is back in the red for the year after a five-week rally lost momentum as investors fretted about the state of the U.S. economy amid global economic turmoil.
The index has traded in a narrow range, not moving more than 1 percent in either direction in more than two weeks.
Crude oil fell more than 3 percent, raising concerns that a two-month rally may be in danger of fizzling out.
At 12:02 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 40.03 points, or 0.23 percent, at 17,495.36, the S&P 500 was down 1.95 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,035.10.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 19.49 points, or 0.41 percent, at 4,786.28, lifted by a rise in tech stocks.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by a 0.95 percent fall in the energy sector. Chevron and Exxon fell about half a percent.
Among other Fed officials speaking on Tuesday is New York Fed President William Dudley.
Shares of 3M were down 1.4 percent at $163.88 and was the biggest drag on the Dow.
Chipotle was down 3.7 percent at $458.16 after Wedbush downgraded the stock to “underperform”.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,628 to 1,252. On the Nasdaq, 1,630 issues rose and 1,035 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 17 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 37 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)