Dow and S&P 500 fall on trade worries, Nasdaq rises as Apple hits record

Stocks slipped on Wednesday as renewed trade concerns offset strong gains in tech. Investors also digested the Federal Reserve's latest decision on monetary policy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 81.37 points to 25,333.82 with big exporters Caterpillar and 3M lagging. The S&P 500 closed 0.1 percent lower at 2,813.36 as industrials dropped more than 1 percent.

The Nasdaq Composite bucked the lower trend, however, closing 0.4 percent higher at 7,707.29 on the back of strong gains from Apple.

Reuters reported, citing a source, the Trump administration is looking at the possibility of slapping a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods — after initially setting them at 10 percent.

"On trade, it seems like it's a day-by-day story," said Mike Baele, managing director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "Last week, it was about the de-escalation of trade tensions with Europe."

"In the short term, the impact of fiscal stimulus and strong economic data will outweigh the impact of tariffs," Baele said. But if the trade situation escalates, trace could have a more permanent impact on stocks, he said.

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The Federal Reserve concluded a two-day meeting on monetary policy on Wednesday in which it left interest rates unchanged. The decision was widely expected, but the central bank upgraded its view on the economy, calling it "strong."

"It was basically a nonevent," said Eric Stein, co-director of global income at Eaton Vance. "The market was priced in for this decision. I think the Fed is still on track to raise rates in September."

Treasury yields rose ahead of the announcement, with the 10-year note yield breaking above 3 percent for the first time since June. At around 4 p.m. ET, the benchmark yield traded at 2.999 percent.

"It seems like this Fed is trying not to repeat the mistakes of the past," said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income. "Usually, toward the end of the cycle, the Fed tends to accelerate rate hikes. This Fed shows no inclination of doing that."

The Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3 percent as Apple climbed to a record high on strong quarterly results. Apple jumped more than 5 percent. Apple reported earnings and revenue for the previous quarter that topped analyst expectations.

Apple's gains gave the broader tech sector a much-needed boost after disappointing quarterly numbers from Facebook and Twitter sent it down sharply. Since July 26, tech has dropped 5.1 percent through Tuesday's close. The sector rose 1 percent on Wednesday.

ADP and Moody's Analytics said the private payrolls in the U.S. grew by 219,000 in July, more than the 185,000 gain forecast by Reuters.

July's job gains were the best since February, when 241,000 jobs were added. The report from ADP and Moody's comes ahead of the U.S. government's monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is scheduled for release Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET.

"The ADP survey has never been a great guide to the actual payrolls figures, but there is plenty of other evidence suggesting that jobs growth has remained strong," said Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

"Most employment surveys are at a high level, while initial jobless claims recently touched their lowest level in almost 50 years. With activity booming on the back of the fiscal stimulus, the continued strength of the labor market will keep the pressure on the Fed to continue raising interest rates," Hunter said.

—CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs contributed to this report.