* Wal-Mart hits near 15-month high on strong results
* Energy stock gains as Brent crude top $50/bbl
* Cisco drops on disappointing forecast
* Indexes down: Dow 0.17 pct, S&P 0.04 pct, Nasdaq 0.03 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
Aug 18 (Reuters) - Wall Street pared earlier gains and was little changed in early afternoon trading on Thursday, as a drop in technology stocks offset gains in energy companies on the back of higher oil prices.
Wal-Mart also helped prop up the market, rising as much as 3.1 percent to a more than 14-month high of $75.19 after the retailer’s better-than-expected quarterly profit.
However, a decline in technology stocks, led by Cisco , helped overwhelm most of the gains.
Cisco fell 1.7 percent to $53.57 after the network equipment provider said it would cut 5,500 jobs and gave a disappointing forecast.
Investors also weighed up minutes of the Federal Reserve’s July meeting, released on Wednesday, that showed policymakers were divided over whether to raise interest rates in the near-term.
“Yesterday’s minutes didn’t hold any major surprises for investors,” said Thomas Wilson, Managing Director of Wealth Advisory at Brinker Capital, in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
“The market has been Fed driven so far. It is going through a phase where it will pivot from the Fed to more emphasis on companies growing their revenues.”
While traders have almost completely ruled out a hike in September, they have priced in a 41.7 percent chance for a move in December - down from 45.1 percent on Wednesday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
At 12:41 p.m. ET (1641 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 30.89 points, or 0.17 percent, at 18,543.05.
The S&P 500 was down 0.94 points, or 0.04 percent, at 2,181.28.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 1.51 points, or 0.03 percent, at 5,227.14.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the telecommunications index’s 1.31 percent loss leading the decliners.
The energy index was up 1.18 percent after Brent crude topped $50 per barrel for the first time in six weeks as major producers prepared to discuss a possible freeze in output.
Twitter fell 4.9 percent to $19.17 after Evercore downgraded the stock to “sell” from “hold”.
NetApp jumped 15.2 percent to $33.24 after it’s quarterly results beat expectations.
The S&P 500 has been higher in six of the last eight weeks and the market has touched new records on the back of better-than-expected corporate earnings, supportive monetary policy and a robust labor market.
Data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,787 to 1,082. On the Nasdaq, 1,589 issues rose and 1,120 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 14 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 21 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Savio D‘Souza)