* Fed could raise rates “relatively soon” - Yellen
* Wal-Mart’s fall weighs on Dow
* Oct CPI rises 0.4 pct vs gain of 0.3 pct in Sept
* Indexes up: Dow 0.08 pct, S&P 0.48 pct, Nasdaq 0.73 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
Nov 17 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 was within shouting distance of its record high on Thursday as bank stocks got a boost after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated the central bank was on track to raise interest rates at its meeting next month.
The Nasdaq was set for another day of gains, boosted by Microsoft and Apple.
The Dow, which snapped its seven-day rally on Wednesday, was little changed, weighed down by a fall in Wal-Mart.
Shares of the world’s largest retailer fell 3.9 percent after the company reported lower-than-expected quarterly comparable sales.
Yellen, in a congressional testimony, said the central bank could raise interest rates “relatively soon” and was prepared to adjust its outlook as the new administration takes shape.
U.S. stocks had been on a tear since Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election last week, with the Dow closing at a record level four days in a row.
Trump’s proposals to cut taxes and raise infrastructure spending are expected to boost economic activity and inflation, raising the possibility of more interest rate hikes.
Traders are pricing in an 83 percent chance of a December move, according to Thomson Reuters data.
“A December rate hike is priced in. A number of Fed speakers have indicated that and they want the market to be prepared for when they do,” said Erik Wytenus, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
“The Fed though is sensitive to the strength of the dollar and they don’t want to hike too far too quickly.”
The dollar index touched a near 14-year high.
At 12:45 p.m. ET (1745 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average was up 15.79 points, or 0.08 percent, at 18,883.93.
The S&P 500 was up 10.48 points, or 0.48 percent, at 2,187.42. The Nasdaq Composite index was up 38.60 points, or 0.73 percent, at 5,333.18.
Eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with the financial index’s 1.24 percent rise leading the advancers. The index has risen over 10 percent since the election, bolstered by Trump’s proposals of lower regulation for the banking sector.
Wells Fargo and Bank of America were up about 2 percent, making them the biggest influences on the S&P.
U.S. consumer prices recorded their biggest increase in six months in October, data showed. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.4 percent last month after rising 0.3 percent in September.
Cisco fell 5.3 percent after its current-quarter forecast fell below analysts’ estimates.
Best Buy rose as much as 11.5 percent to a more than six-year high, after the No. 1 U.S. electronics retailer’s quarterly results beat expectations.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,845 to 1,071. On the Nasdaq, 1,836 issues rose and 917 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 30 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 223 new highs and 18 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal and Anya George Tharakan; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)