Wall St mixed on Fed worries

US stocks fail to overcome fears of taper despite strong earnings, lift in IMF forecast.

United States stocks are largely trading lower in the late afternoon amid mostly positive corporate earnings reports as markets turned their attention to next week's policy meeting of the US Federal Reserve.

While fresh economic data was scarce, markets welcomed news that the International Monetary Fund had raised its global growth forecast for the first time in two years. But expectations of further tapering of economic stimulus from the Fed saw the optimism upon open quickly fade.

At 0730 AEDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had given up 53.78 points, or 0.33%, to 16,404.78.

The broad-based S&P 500 inched up 2.61 points, or 0.14%, to 1,841.13, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 21.21 points, or 0.51%t, to 4,218.79.

Earlier, the S&P 500 index had flirted with record highs around 1850 points.

The early push higher was stimulated by solid earnings from Johnson & Johnson, Delta Air Lines and Verizon, which boosted sentiment at the start of another busy week of fourth quarter earnings releases.

"The guidance heard this week could go a long way toward helping the broader market break out of its early-year stupor or, conversely, leave it feeling some wintertime blues," said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare.

However, concerns about the forward guidance offered by Verizon and Johnson & Johnson saw their shares retreat.

Analysts also pointed to a move by China's central bank to inject $US42.1 billion ($A47.9 billion) worth of cash into the world's second biggest economy as positive for growth.

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