Stocks edged lower on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve stuck with its plan to keep stimulating the U.S. economy until the job market improves.
The Fed, in its latest policy statement, said it would keep buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt per month to push interest rates lower. The Fed also repeated its vow to keep interest rates near zero until mid-2015.
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Stocks had briefly dipped into negative territory following the Fed's statement and then inched higher - only to flip once again to resume their decline. On September 13, the Fed unveiled a third round of economic stimulus, or quantitative easing, known as QE3.
"This is a status quo one with the U.S. presidential election just a couple of weeks away," said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial, in Boston. "They just threw so much on us the last time. We are only six weeks away when they first announced QE3 and the extension of the low rate guidance."
Stocks had been mostly flat in early trading after a 3.3 percent drop in the S&P 500 over the past four sessions. Weak earnings outlooks and top-line revenue misses from large multinational companies have reignited worries about a slowing global economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 14.52 points, or 0.11 percent, at 13,088.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 2.65 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,410.46. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 5.82 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,984.64.
Boeing shares slipped 0.2 percent to $72.63 even though its more optimistic outlook bucked the recent string of disappointments from global giants, including DuPont , United Technologies Corp and 3M Co - all of which lowered their full-year forecasts.
In the statement after a two-day meeting, the Fed's policymakers acknowledged that the housing sector was still getting stronger and said household spending had increased "a bit more quickly.
Homebuilders' stocks ranked among the session's best performers. An index of housing stocks shot up 1.11 percent. Shares of PulteGroup , one of the largest U.S. homebuilders, gained 1.2 percent to $17.54.
Sales of new U.S. single-family homes soared in September to the highest level in nearly 2-1/2 years, offering more evidence that the housing market's recovery is improving. New home sales jumped 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate annual rate of 389,000 units, the Commerce Department said.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Additional reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Jan Paschal)