* Lowe’s and Tiffany drop on disappointing results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 500 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct (Updates with reaction to Fed minutes)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were volatile but still slightly higher on Wednesday after minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting showed policymakers agreed they should hold off on raising rates until evidence a recent economic slowdown was transitory.
The S&P financial index was down 0.3 percent, falling after the release of the minutes, while S&P utilities index was up 0.6 percent and among the day’s best-performing sectors.
Nearly all policymakers at the May 2-3 meeting also said they favored starting the winding down of the Fed’s massive holdings of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities this year.
“We had a good jobs report earlier this month... I think as long May (jobs) number is OK, the’ll probably still tighten in June,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.
He noted that trading was slow ahead of the minutes. “Yes, we moved following the minutes, but we almost weren’t moving prior to it.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 68.29 points, or 0.33 percent, to 21,006.2, the S&P 500 had gained 4.54 points, or 0.19 percent, to 2,402.96 and the Nasdaq Composite had added 16.42 points, or 0.27 percent, to 6,155.13. While recent economic data has been mixed, with signs of a dip in consumer sentiment and spending, the job market continues to strengthen. That could give the Fed impetus to continue with its path of monetary tightening.
The retail sector issued more results that were disappointing.
Lowe’s dropped 2.5 percent after the home improvement chain reported a lower-than-expected profit and comparable sales.
Jewelry retailer Tiffany sank 8.2 percent after posting a surprise drop in comparable sales. Signet Jewelers , which reports on Thursday, was down 7.2 percent. The two were the biggest losers on the S&P.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio.
The S&P 500 posted 44 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 86 new highs and 48 new lows. (Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Nick Zieminski)