* US moves towards faster stock settlement

* Apple gains on strong iPhone sales in China

* Indexes: Dow down 0.7%, S&P 500 down 0.1%, Nasdaq up 0.5%

NEW YORK, May 28 (Reuters) - The Nasdaq rose past the 17,000 level on Tuesday for the first time ever as AI leader Nvidia hit a record high, while investors awaited U.S. inflation data this week that could sway expectations for Federal Reserve rate cuts.

The Dow and S&P 500 slipped, with the S&P 500 pressured by declines in healthcare, industrials and financials.

The U.S. core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index report for April is due later this week. The Fed's preferred inflation barometer is expected to hold steady on a monthly basis.

Nvidia shares gained more than 6% and lifted other chip stocks, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index up 1.7% as traders returned from a holiday-extended weekend.

"In terms of today’s price action, it’s all about technology and the winners continue to be the winners, specifically Nvidia. Today's tape is a function of positive stories having some stock specific impact, but overall, as you can see from the Dow being down around 200 points, it’s a generally sloppy overall market session," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 278.04 points, or 0.71%, to 38,791.55, the S&P 500 lost 4.37 points, or 0.08%, to 5,300.35 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 81.68 points, or 0.48%, to 17,002.47.

Wall Street has been hitting records recently as investors bet the U.S. central bank could kick off interest-rate cuts this year.

Expectations for the timing of rate cuts have see-sawed, with policymakers wary as data still reflects sticky inflation.

Odds of a rate reduction of at least 25 basis points stand above the 50% mark only for the months of November and December this year, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. The odds of a September rate cut fell to around 46% from over 50% a week ago.

The retail sector will also be in focus this week, with several retailers like Dollar General, Advance Auto Parts and Best Buy reporting earnings.

U.S. trading moves to a shorter settlement on Tuesday, which regulators hope will reduce risk and improve efficiency, but is expected to temporarily increase transaction failures for investors.

Hess shareholders

approved

the $53 billion merger with Chevron. Hess shares were last down 0.9%, while Chevron shares were up 0.5% and Exxon Mobil shares were up 0.8%.

Apple shares rose 0.2% after iPhone sales in China surged 52% in April from a year earlier, Reuters calculations based on industry data showed.

GameStop shot up 21.5%. Late on Friday, the videogame retailer said it had raised $933 million by selling 45 million shares as part of an "at-the-market" offering.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.6-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.38-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 23 new 52-week highs and nine new lows, while the Nasdaq Composite recorded 82 new highs and 87 new lows. (Reporting by Abigail Summerville in New York; Editing by Pooja Desai and David Gregorio)