May 3, 2017 / 6:30 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Wall St stays lower after Fed holds rates steady

* U.S. central bank downplays Q1 economic weakness

* Apple slips after surprise dip in iPhone sales

* Indexes down: Dow 0.07 pct, S&P 0.28 pct, Nasdaq 0.54 pct (Updates with Fed statement reaction)

By Lewis Krauskopf

May 3 (Reuters) - Wall Street kept losses on Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve held interest rates unchanged following its two-day policy meeting.

The U.S. central bank downplayed weak first-quarter economic growth and emphasized the strength of the labor market, in a sign it could tighten monetary policy as early as June, as investors have been expecting.

The S&P financial sector, which is seen benefiting in a rising rate environment, was up 0.3 percent after the Fed’s bullish statement, leading all sectors.

The Fed is in its first tightening cycle in more than a decade after it spent years keeping rates near zero to help the economy following the 2007-2009 recession.

“The Fed is communicating its mantra of gradual rate hikes,” said Ryan Sweet, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The next time they will likely raise rates would be June.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 14.89 points, or 0.07 percent, to 20,935, the S&P 500 lost 6.74 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,384.43 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 32.64 points, or 0.54 percent, to 6,062.73.

Apple shares fell 0.4 percent, weighing on indexes, but recovering from steeper losses after the company’s quarterly report, in which it reported a surprise fall in iPhone sales. (Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Nick Zieminski)

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