FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here

U.S. equity markets slipped on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve hinted that it could begin trimming its bond purchases in coming months.

Today's Markets

As of 2:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.7 points, or 0.11%, to 15979, the S&P 500 dipped 1.9 points, or 0.11%, to 1786 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.3 points, or 0.03%, to 3932.

The American economy took center stage Wednesday. 

Many members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee said they could see the central bank trimming its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying program at ‘one of its next few meetings,’ minutes from the October meeting indicate. The FOMC also saw the U.S. economy growing at a ‘moderate’ pace and discussed various public communications strategies aimed at more clearly describing the Fed’s forward guidance.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.4% in October, slightly above estimates of a 0.1% increase. Excluding the auto segment, sales were up 0.2%, versus the 0.1% bump expected.

The consumer sector is taking on additional significance as they key holiday shopping season kicks off. Sentiment took a hit from the government shutdown and showdown in Congress over raising the nation's debt limit. Broadly stagnant earnings growth has also weighed on the American consumer. 

The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing single-family homes fell 3.2% in October to an annual rate of 5.12 million units, just shy of expectations of 5.13 million units.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said consumer prices fell 0.1% in October, while economists expected the number to remain unchanged. Excluding food and energy, prices rose 0.1%, matching expectations. The Labor Department noted, due to the government shutdown, the sample used to calculate last month’s index was 75% of the amount usually used.The Federal Reserve pays very close attention to prices since it has a dual mandate to keep unemployment low and inflation in check. 

In corporate news, J.C. Penney (JCP) posted weaker-than-expected quarterly profits. However, an upbeat outlook sent shares zooming higher. 

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil futures fell 4 cents, or 0.04%, to $93.30 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.63% to $2.622 a gallon. Gold slumped $10.70, or 0.85%, to $1,262 a troy ounce. 

Follow Adam Samson on Twitter @adamsamson.