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US stocks slightly higher ahead of Fed minutes

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks moved higher in early afternoon trading Wednesday as investors prepared for the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 46 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,966 as of 1:30 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,985 and the Nasdaq composite was mostly flat at 4,529.

RATE INCREASES: Many analysts predict the Fed will start raising its key interest rate sometime in 2015. Besides the release of its meeting minutes at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, investors are also waiting on a speech later this week by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Fed officials have used the bank's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as a venue to lay out major policy decisions in previous years.

“Janet Yellen's speech in Jackson Hole will most likely guide the markets (now that) earnings season is winding down,” Doug Cote, chief market strategist with Voya Investment Management, said.

IN A JAM: J.M. Smucker fell $1.74, or 2 percent, to $101.71. The food products company, which also owns coffee brands such as Folgers, cut its full-year sales outlook. The company also said higher coffee prices were impacting the company's profit margins.

PUPPY IN THE WINDOW: PetSmart rose 22 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $69.93 after the company said it was exploring a possible sale. The pet supply retailer had been under pressure from activist investors to explore a deal or to do a major restructuring.

CALL AAA: Hertz plunged after the rental car company withdrew its full-year profit forecast, citing numerous “operational challenges” related to auto recalls and accounting irregularities. The company said the Ford and GM recalls have hurt its ability to have cars available for customers. Hertz also said its purchase of Dollar Thrifty was not saving as much money as originally hoped. The stock fell $3.07, or 10 percent, to $28.46.

ENERGY, BONDS: Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery rose 15 cents to $93.03 a barrel New York. It dropped sharply Tuesday and was down nearly 4 percent for August due to abundant supplies. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.42 percent.

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