(RTTNews.com) - After moving mostly higher over the course of the previous session, stocks are turning in a lackluster performance in morning trading on Wednesday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is pulling back after ending Tuesday's trading at a new record closing high.
Currently, the major averages are on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Dow is up 25.38 points or 0.1 percent at 25,145.27, the Nasdaq is down 22.12 points or 0.3 percent at 7,833.00 and the S&P 500 is down 1.51 points or 0.1 percent at 2,808.04.
The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is on Capitol Hill for the second straight day, appearing before the House Financial Services Committee.
Powell's prepared remarks mirror the upbeat comments he made to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, although traders are likely to keep an eye on his answers to lawmakers' questions.
Some negative sentiment has been generated in reaction to a report from the Commerce Department showing a sharp pullback in new residential construction in the U.S. in the month of June.
The Commerce Department said housing starts plunged by 12.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.173 million in June after jumping by 4.8 percent to a revised rate of 1.337 million in May.
Economists had expected housing starts to drop by 2.2 percent to a rate of 1.320 million from the 1.350 million originally reported for the previous month.
With the much bigger than expected decrease, housing starts fell to their lowest annual rate since hitting 1.158 million last September.
Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, also fell by 2.2 percent to an annual rate of 1.273 million in June after tumbling by 4.6 percent to a rate of 1.301 million in May.
The continued decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected building permits to climb to an annual rate of 1.330 million.
Later in the trading day, the Fed is due to release its Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in the twelve Fed districts.
Energy stocks are extending a recent downtrend trend amid another notable decrease by the price of crude oil. Crude for August delivery is sliding $0.82 to $67.26 a barrel.
Reflecting the weakness in the energy sector, the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index is down by 1.7 percent and the NYSE Arca Oil Index is down by 1.1 percent.
On the other hand, transportation stocks have shown a strong move to the upside, driving the Dow Jones Transportation Average up by 1.6 percent.
United Continental (UAL) and CSX Corp. (CSX) are leading the transportation sector higher after reporting better than expected second quarter results.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down by 0.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets have moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index has advanced by 0.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index are both up by 0.4 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries continue to show a lack of direction after ending the previous session roughly flat. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 2.860 percent.
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