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US stocks hover near record highs as investors await Fed Chair Powell's latest speech

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US stocks hovered near record highs Wednesday as investors awaited a key speech by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell later this week during the high-profile annual Jackson Hole conference of central bankers.

The benchmark S&P 500, which attained its 50th record close of 2021 on Tuesday, edged higher. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also climbed.

Here's where US indexes stood at 9:30 a.m. ET open on Wednesday.

All eyes will be on Powell's speech for any indication of when the central bank will reduce its support for the US economy, which has staged an impressive rebound, by winding down asset purchases. 

Some though, including economist Mohamed El-Erian, think the event will offer little direction.

But Lauren Goodwin, economist and portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments, believes the Fed may continue its slow and steady move towards tapering asset purchases.

"Assuming two more strong jobs reports – four strong reports make a trend – tapering on purchases may begin in November or December, slightly earlier than our previous base case of January," she said in a note on Wednesday. "Market participants are well prepared."

Stocks have been scaling new highs despite the surge in the spread of the Delta variant. On Tuesday, major indexes closed at record highs, following the full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine a day earlier.

US bond yields fell slightly on Wednesday, with the key 10-year US Treasury yield slightly lower at 1.294%. Yields move inversely to prices.

Oil prices surged following a deadly fire on a Mexican offshore oil rig.

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.71% to $68.02 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, gained 0.89%, to $71.68 per barrel.

Gold slipped 0.33% to $1,796.19 per ounce. 

Bitcoin slipped to $47,853.70 after briefly breaching the $50,000-level.

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