By Rodrigo Campos
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended slightly higher on Wednesday after fears eased that the Federal Reserve would strongly signal it would raise interest rates in June, though a slump in Apple shares weighed on the Nasdaq index.
Stocks in the telecom and utilities sectors, seen as proxies for fixed income returns when Treasury yields are expected to remain low, rose sharply after the Fed's announcement. That indicates market participants expect U.S. government yields to remain subdued.
"The big takeaway here is they (the Fed) continued to be positive on the domestic economy," said John Bailer, senior portfolio manager at The Boston Company Asset Management. "They have taken out some of the risk on the global economy."
"It is slightly hawkish in my mind but not enough to get the market worried about it."
Economists polled by Reuters expect two rate increases this year but futures prices show traders do not expect a hike until at least September, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.
The Fed next meets on June 14-15. While the labour market continues to gain strength, inflation remains below the central bank's 2 percent target and mixed economic data could cloud the path to future rate hikes.
The technology sector remained the largest weight on the market after Apple (AAPL.O) slumped more than 6 percent following its first revenue decline in over a decade.
The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) rose 51.23 points, or 0.28 percent, to 18,041.55, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 3.45 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,095.15 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) fell 25.14 points, or 0.51 percent, to 4,863.14.
Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures (NQc1) pared losses after the closing bell as Facebook's shares (FB.O) jumped more than 8 percent after the company beat estimates on both earnings and revenue.
During the regular session, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) shares hit their highest level since May 2015 after the energy company raised its quarterly dividend to 75 cents from 73 cents. The dividend hike came a day after Standard & Poor's cut Exxon's credit rating, in part for being too generous with shareholders. Its shares closed up 0.9 percent at $88.46.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.4-to-1 ratio and on the Nasdaq a 1.14-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 25 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 67 new highs and 16 new lows.
About 7.4 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with a 6.9 billion daily average over the past 20 sessions.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)