* Fed Chair Janet Yellen to speak at 2:30 p.m. ET
* May producer price index up 0.4 pct vs est 0.3 pct
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.26 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
June 15 (Reuters) - Wall Street held its gains steady in early afternoon trading, minutes before the Federal Reserve releases its policy statement that is expected to leave interest rates unchanged.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will release its statement with new economic forecasts at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Yellen had hinted at higher chances of a rate hike than the markets had priced in, but weak May jobs data and economic repercussions of a possible Brexit forced her to take a dovish stance last week.
“It is widely expected that the Fed is going leave rates unchanged today. I would be surprised if we do a whole lot of anything until we get through June 23 when we get the Brexit vote,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
Traders see a less than 40 percent chance of an interest rate increase until December, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
After a host of data that clouded the outlook for rate hikes, May producer price index rose by a better-than-expected 0.4 percent on Wednesday.
At 13:13 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 26.71 points, or 0.15 percent, at 17,701.53.
The S&P 500 was up 4.14 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,079.46.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 12.53 points, or 0.26 percent, at 4,856.08.
The S&P financial index rose 0.88 percent, after having fallen 1.09 percent in the past four days.
Bank of America’s 2.5 percent rise gave the biggest boost to the sector. The bank plans to cut 8,000 jobs, according to the Financial Times.
“The financials are outperforming the broader index simply because they had underperformed it in the past four days,” Hogan said.
Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher.
Apple gave the biggest boost to the S&P and the Nasdaq while Home Depot pushed up the Dow.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,139 to 814. On the Nasdaq, 1,880 issues rose and 872 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed nine new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 25 new highs and 31 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)