* Fed starts two-day monetary policy meeting on Tuesday
* McDonald’s, Verizon fall on weak results
* Caterpillar, Texas Instruments rise on upbeat earnings, forecast
* Indexes: Dow -0.1 pct, S&P +0.03 pct, Nasdaq +0.24 pct (Updates to close)
By Noel Randewich
July 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were mixed on Tuesday as Federal Reserve policymakers kicked off a two-day interest rate meeting and investors braced for quarterly scorecards from Apple and Twitter.
Choppy stock trading followed a recent rally to consecutive record highs on the S&P 500 that has stretched price-to-earnings multiples to levels that some investors say presumes that companies will beat second-quarter estimates.
Five of the 10 major S&P sectors rose, while a 1.49 percent drop in the telecom services index weighed heavily. Verizon Communications fell 1.9 percent after subscriber numbers fell below estimates.
Caterpillar’s shares jumped 5.16 percent to touch a year high after quarterly earnings beat expectations.
The Federal Reserve began a two-day meeting and while it is not expected to raise U.S. interest rates, investors will be watching for hints about when the U.S. central bank might make a move.
A set of strong economic data, including Tuesday’s housing report, could strengthen the case for the Fed to raise rates earlier than the market anticipates.
“The real thing I’m going to be looking for is, is there a tip of the hat to a potential rate increase in September?,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.
The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 0.1 percent to end at 18,473.75 points and the S&P 500 edged up 0.03 percent to 2,169.18 after spending much of the day at a loss. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.24 percent to 5,110.05.
After investors shrugged of Britain’s unexpected vote in late June to leave the European Union, the S&P 500 rallied and is up 6 percent year to date.
Almost a third of the way into third of the way into second-quarter reports, S&P 500 companies overall are expected to see earnings dip 3.5 percent, not as bad as the 4.5 percent dip predicted at the start of the month, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares of Apple, the world’s largest publicly traded company, dipped 0.69 percent ahead of its quarterly report after the bell, when investors will be looking for new details about how much iPhone sales are likely to decline in 2016.
Twitter has been struggling with sluggish user growth that has trailed Facebook and other social media competitors and its stock lost 1.07 percent ahead of its report.
McDonald’s sank 4.46 percent after reporting worse-than-expected quarterly sales at established U.S. restaurants. The stock weighed the most on the Dow.
Texas Instruments jumped 7.85 percent after its current-quarter forecast beat analysts’ estimates. The stock provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.58-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.62-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 53 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 119 new highs and 25 new lows.
About 6.5 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the nearly 6.8 billion daily average over the past 20 sessions. (Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by James Dalgleish and Nick Zieminski)