US stocks are steady after a sell-off the day before; Yellen's comments remain in focus

Energy Associated Press

U.S. stocks were little changed in early trading Thursday as investors remain cautious following the comments yesterday from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who suggested that stock prices might be overvalued.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down nine points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,839 as of 9:52 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow is coming off two days of losses and is now slightly negative for the year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell three points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,076. The Nasdaq composite was flat at 4,920.

YELLEN SPEECH: Stocks were stabilizing after some turbulence the day before. Indexes slumped after Yellen said market valuations were generally "quite high" in response to a question about risks to financial stability at a conference in Washington. Some market experts think the Fed will have to increase its short-term rate relatively soon to fight inflation.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Yellen wasn't trying to spook the stock market, but was reminding traders that interest rates will not remain rock bottom forever," said David Madden, market analyst at IG. "The Fed is fully aware that ultra-low interest rates have been a huge factor behind U.S. equities hitting all-time highs this year, and the last thing the U.S. central bank wants is a crash when rates start to rise."

U.K. ELECTION: Britain's general election added a dose of uncertainty to markets. The election is not expected to deliver a majority for either of the big two political parties, the Conservatives or Labour. Days, if not weeks, of horse trading and uncertainty are anticipated and that could impact on British financial assets, notably the pound. The U.S. dollar gained against the pound and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index was down roughly 1 percent.

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SLUGGISH SALES: Whole Foods Markets lost $5.38, or 11 percent, to $42.38 after the company's reported sales growth for the first quarter that was weaker than analysts had expected.

ENERGY: U.S. crude declined $1.15 to $59.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $93 cents to $66.84 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES, BONDS: The dollar was unchanged against the Japanese currency at 119.32 yen. The euro fell to $1.1274 from $1.1354. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.20 percent from 2.25 percent late Wednesday.