NEW YORK, April 4 ― The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed higher yesterday after data showing the US services industry growth slowed further in March, but the advance was limited after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated a cut in interest was still not in sight.

Most of the major S&P 500 sectors advanced, led by gains in energy, materials and communication services.

Powell reaffirmed in a speech yesterday that the Fed will stick to its wait-and-see approach as it considers when to start cutting rates given the continued strength of the US economy and recent higher-than-expected inflation data.

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Earlier yesterday, data from the Institute for Supply Management showed that non-manufacturing PMI declined for the second straight month to 51.4 in March, down from 52.6 in February, and weaker than analysts had expected, according to a Reuters poll.

A reading above 50 indicates growth in the services industry, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, and the data still indicates the US economy continues to expand, though at a moderate pace.

“It all has to do with the Fed and market expectations for a rate cut being pushed off. I think that's really what is weighing on the market here and has been for at least a couple of days,” said Tim Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist at Ingalls & Snyder in New York.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 43.1 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 39,127.14, the S&P 500 gained 5.68 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 5,211.49 and the Nasdaq Composite added 37.01 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 16,277.46.

The US central bank had been expected to start cutting rates as early as June, but with recent robust economic data, many in the market have been questioning the timetable.

In separate comments to CNBC yesterday, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said rates should likely not be reduced until the fourth quarter of this year.

“There's this kind of yin and yang data scenario where you have some strong data that has some good-news-is-bad-news feel to it,” said James St. Aubin, chief investment officer at Sierra Investment Management in California.

Among decliners, Ulta Beauty dropped 15.3 per cent after the beauty retailer gave downbeat forecast at an industry conference. Shares of e.l.f. Beauty and Coty also fell.

Also, Intel shares dropped 8.2 per cent after the chipmaker disclosed US$7 billion (RM33.3 billion) in operating losses for its foundry business in 2023, steeper than the US$5.2 billion reported the year before.

Volume on US exchanges was 11.03 billion shares, compared with the 11.76 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.66-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.25-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 33 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 90 new highs and 124 new lows. ― Reuters