* Fed minutes scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. ET
* Fed fund futures steady at 83 pct odds of June rate hike
* Financial sector dips after four days of gains
* Lowe’s and Tiffany drop on disappointing results
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.08 pct, Nasdaq 0.16 pct (Adds details, changes comment, updates prices)
By Tanya Agrawal
May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were modestly higher late on Wednesday morning, aiming for a fifth straight day of gains, as investors awaited Federal Reserve minutes of its May meeting that could cement the chances of an interest rate hike next month.
U.S. interest rates futures were steady. Fed funds futures implied traders priced in about an 83 percent chance of a rate hike in June, little changed from Tuesday’s close.
Investors are also awaiting more details regarding the Fed trimming its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, when the central bank releases the minutes at 2 p.m. ET (1600 GMT).
“The real take from the Fed is that a June rate hike still seems to pretty much baked in the cake but I’m going to be looking at guidance as how they expect to start spending down their excess assets,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Mass.
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.
Data on Wednesday showed home resales fell more than expected in April as a tight supply boosted prices and sidelined prospective buyers. A tightening labor market and historically low mortgage rates have helped the housing market recovery.
McMillan said the recent mixed economic data did not concern him as a lot of it was due to from first-quarter seasonality issues and that he expected an improvement in the current quarter.
At 10:56 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 31.67 points, or 0.15 percent, at 20,969.58, the S&P 500 was up 2.15 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,400.57 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 9.63 points, or 0.16 percent, at 6,148.34.
Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, led by the materials index’s 0.67 percent rise.
Financials, the index which will benefit the most from higher interest rates, was off 0.21 percent after four days of gains.
The consumer staples index fell 0.12 percent, weighed down by weak report from Lowe’s, the No. 2 U.S. home improvement chain.
Lowe’s dropped 4.3 percent to $78.82 after it reported a lower-than-expected profit and comparable sales. Bigger rival Home Depot was off 0.2 percent.
Jewelry retailer Tiffany sank 6.8 percent after posting a surprise drop in comparable sales. Signet Jewelers , which reports on Thursday, was down 6 percent. The two were the biggest losers on the S&P.
At the other end was Intuit, which jumped 7.2 percent after the tax-preparation software maker posted a profit topped estimates and also raised its revenue forecast.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,684 to 1,011. On the Nasdaq, 1,506 issues rose and 1,107 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 33 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 64 new highs and 32 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)