US STOCKS-Wall Street flat as stalemate offsets Yellen optimism
* President Obama to nominate Yellen as Fed chair Wed
* Alcoa rises, Yum falls after earnings
* Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.4 pct
NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, as expectations that Janet Yellen will be tapped as the next chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve were tempered by a continued stalemate in fiscal negotiations in Washington.
U.S. President Barack Obama will nominate Fed number two Yellen on Wednesday. Investors expect her to tread carefully in winding down economic stimulus, and to provide continuity with the policies established under Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose second term is due to expire on Jan. 31.
"The markets are finding consolation in Yellen's expected nomination because that at least puts the monetary policy on a more certain, or at least, a more familiar path," said Anastasia Amoroso, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York.
"It does remove another hurdle, another piece of the puzzle, another piece of uncertainty that the market likes to see resolved."
The S&P 500 dropped 1.2 percent on Tuesday, its worst decline since Aug. 27, sending the benchmark index to its lowest level since Sept. 6 as traders cashed in gains in some of the year's best performers.
In Washington, Obama said he would not hold talks on ways to end the fiscal impasse while under threat from conservative Republicans, but agreed to discuss anything, including his healthcare plan, if they restore government funding and raise the debt limit.
"From a market perspective, obviously the longer the shutdown continues and the more it bleeds into the debt ceiling debate, the more the compelling the reason to sell becomes," said Amoroso.
The crisis in Washington threatens to damage the fiscal standing of the United States and to derail its fragile economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 14,791.75, the S&P 500 gained 1.56 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,657.01 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 14.825 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,680.009.
Alcoa Inc climbed 3.9 percent to $8.25 after the aluminum producer reported better than expected earnings, as strength at the unit that sells auto parts and other complex items helped offset lower metal prices.
Yum! Brands Inc slumped 7.7 percent to $66.85 as both the worst performer and biggest drag on the S&P 500 after the KFC parent warned it will take longer than expected for restaurant sales to rebound in China, which accounts for more than half the company's overall operating profit.
Costco Wholesale Corp slipped 1.4 percent to $110.69 after the retailer posted a 1 percent rise in quarterly profit and a 3 percent increase in its same-store sales for the month of September.
According to Thomson Reuters data, third-quarter earnings are expected to grow 4.3 percent, and revenue 3 percent.
Men's Wearhouse rose 23.4 percent to $43.47 after it rejected smaller rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc's $2.3 billion takeover offer, saying it significantly undervalued the company and could raise antitrust issues. Jos. A. Bank shares rose 5.9 percent to $44.13.
Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc shares plunged 70.1 percent to $5.12 after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had placed a partial hold on patient enrollment for trials of its cancer drug Iclusig. The Nasdaq biotech index dropped 2 percent.