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The markets capped a volatile trading day little changed as traders made sense of upbeat economic reports and the latest statement from the Fed.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 13.4 points, or 0.09%, to 15507, the S&P 500 rose 0.26 point, or 0.01%, to 1686 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 9.9 points, or 0.27%, to 3626.
There was no lack of information for the Street to break down on Wednesday. Trading was volatile, with the Dow rallying more than 100 points to a record high, before surrendering those gains.
The Federal Reserve said it will hold interest rates at historic lows and continue buying assets at an $85 billion-a-month clip. The central bank said the economy continues improving, but inflation remains "persistently" below its target of 2%, which could pose additional risks to the economy. It said it expects to keep up with its accommodative policies until there is "substantial" improvement in the labor market or inflation rises above 2%.
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Analysts mostly yawned at the report, but did not small changes in the central banks' stance.
"The Fed backtracked a bit at its latest meeting after turning bullish on the economic recovery in June and signaling that it might slow its bond purchases later this year," Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at IHS Global Insight wrote in a research note."Clearly, enough Fed members are not yet on board with this policy change."
A report from payroll processor ADP showed the U.S. private sector tacking on 200,000 jobs in July, topping expectations of an increase of 180,000. The labor market has shown continued signs of recovery, but the process has been stubbornly slow, economists said.
The report comes ahead of the all-important monthly jobs report on Friday.
"Today’s report long with the modest upward revisions provides a bit of optimism heading into Friday," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy expanded at an annualized rate of 1.7% in the second quarter, coming in well above estimates of 1%.
Elsewhere, IBM (IBM) said the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how it calculates cloud computing revenue. Big Blue said it was cooperating with the SEC in the matter. Bill Ackman's Pershing Square revealed it took a 9.8% stake in Air Products & Chemicals (APD) worth $2.2 billion.
In commodities, oil rose 26 cents, or 0.25%, to $103.35 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slumped 0.79% to $2.995 a gallon. In metals, gold advanced $4.20, or 0.32%, to $1,329 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.24% to 2753, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.65% to 6613 and the German DAX dipped 0.37% to 8240.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 sold off by 1.5% to 13668 and the Chinese Hang Seng slipped 0.32% to 21884.