U.S. stocks closed with slight losses on Wednesday, finishing off their lows of the session, after the Federal Reserve ended its stimulative monthly bond-buying program and expressed confidence in U.S. economic prospects.
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Major indexes were volatile following the central bank's statement, with the S&P 500 down as much as 0.8 percent before pulling back. Material shares <.SPLRCM> were lower throughout the session, a decline in Facebook pressured the Nasdaq, but strength in energy and financial shares helped the market recover.
In a statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed ended its quantitative easing program of bond purchases, as had been expected. At its peak, the program pumped $85 billion a month into the financial system. The Fed also dropped a characterization of U.S. labor market slack as "significant" in a show of confidence in the economy's prospects.
"The Fed had a little more of a hawkish bent than the market expected, but any weakness that came from the statement was obviously viewed as a buying opportunity," said Alan Gayle, director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 31.44 points, or 0.18 percent, to 16,974.31, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 2.75 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,982.3 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 15.07 points, or 0.33 percent, to 4,549.23.
Material shares <.SPLRCM> fell 1.3 percent after DuPont <DD.N> said there were "competitive advantages" to keeping its businesses together. Activist investor Nelson Peltz has urged DuPont to separate its various businesses in a move that has supported the company's shares. Shares of DuPont lost 1.7 percent to $66.80.
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Facebook Inc <FB.O> fell 6.1 percent to $75.86 the day after the social network announced an increase in spending in 2015 and projected a slowdown in revenue growth this quarter.
After the market closed, shares of Visa Inc <V.N> rose 3.6 percent to $222.40. Visa reported its fourth-quarter results and announcing a stock buyback program of $5 billion.
Despite the turn lower, equities mostly held onto recent gains, with the S&P 500 up 6.4 percent over the last nine sessions as earnings have mostly been strong. So far this reporting season, 75.3 percent of S&P 500 companies have exceeded profit expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the long-term average of 63 percent.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,763 to 1,322, for a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,437 issues fell and 1,245 advanced for a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 65 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 114 new highs and 35 new lows.
About 7.08 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data, below the month-to-date average of 7.86 billion.
(By Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Nick Zieminski)