Wall Street was mixed, with a rally in shares of DuPont lifting the Dow to a fresh record high, while a decline in oil weighed on energy stocks.

In 1.14pm trading in New York the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.16 per cent. However, the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.05 per cent, while, in 12.59pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.06 per cent.

The Dow touched a record high 20,778.20.

The Dow gained as advances in shares of DuPont and those of 3M, recently trading 4 per cent and 1 per cent higher respectively, outweighed declines in shares of Intel and those of Exxon Mobil, down 1.5 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.


DuPont shares climbed amid reports that the company's US$130 billion merger with Dow Chemical will be cleared by European Union antitrust regulators. Shares of Dow Chemical jumped 4.6 per cent as of 1.09pm trading in New York.

Investors will scrunitise minutes of the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting, scheduled to be released later on Wednesday, for fresh clues about the next interest rate increase.

"It is no more a question of whether they will raise rates, but when they are going to do it," Jim Davis, regional investment manager at US Bank Private Client Group in Springfield, Illinois, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, a National Association of Realtors report showed existing home sales climbed 3.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million units in January, the strongest since February 2007.

The gain signals resilience among consumers even in a rising interest rate environment, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

"Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home," Yun said in a statement. "Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as homebuyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session marginally higher from the previous close, as gains in Unilever offset slides in energy stocks. France's CAC 40 Index rose 0.2 per cent, while Germany's DAX Index increased 0.3 per cent.

The UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.4 per cent, bolstered by Unilever.

Days after rejecting Kraft Heinz's US$143 billion takeover bid, Unilever announced a comprehensive review of its business for completion by early April.

Unilever shares jumped 6.9 per cent in London.

"Unilever is conducting a comprehensive review of options available to accelerate delivery of value for the benefit of our shareholders," the Anglo-Dutch company said in a statement. "The events of the last week have highlighted the need to capture more quickly the value we see in Unilever."

"We expect the review to be completed by early April, after which we will communicate further," Unilever said.