US STOCKS-Dow, S&P 500 slip ahead of Fed minutes

Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:57pm EDT

* FOMC minutes from June meeting due this afternoon

* Stocks pull back after four-day rally

* Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P 500 off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

* Family Dollar shares at seven-month high after earnings

By Alison Griswold

NEW YORK, July 10 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks mostly edged lower on Wednesday, stalling after a four-day climb as attention turned to the afternoon release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's June meeting.

The minutes from the June 18-19 meeting of the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee will be released at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). Investors will scrutinize the minutes for any hints on the central bank's plan to wind down its massive monetary stimulus.

"It's all about the tapering and how much tapering there is and when that starts," said Frank Lesh, a futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago.

"Right now, the whisper is that this may start in September or in the fall, so I think that's the real debate now, whether they start this fall or wait until next year."

Firms that deal directly with the Fed see the stimulus reductions beginning in September, according to a Reuters poll.

Family Dollar Stores Inc shot up 6.2 percent to $67.89. The stock was the S&P 500's top performer after the discount chain posted quarterly earnings. The company's shares were trading at a seven-month high.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 22.40 points, or 0.15 percent, at 15,277.94. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 1.80 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,650.52. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 7.03 points, or 0.20 percent, at 3,511.29.

Shares of Cisco Systems Inc rose nearly 1 percent to $25.41 and helped the Nasdaq hang on to a slim gain.

The S&P 500 has risen 2.2 percent over the past five sessions, pushing the benchmark index to just about 1 percent below its May 21 all-time closing high of 1,669.16. Those gains came largely on waning fears about imminent reductions to the Fed's $85 billion a month in bond purchases.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spooked investors last month when he said the economy's expansion was strong enough for the central bank to start slowing the pace of its bond purchases later this year.

Bernanke will speak at 4:10 p.m. (2010 GMT) before the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Like the FOMC minutes, his comments will be eyed for clues about the Fed's stimulus plans.

Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning showed that analysts expect S&P 500 companies' earnings to grow 2.6 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while revenue is forecast to increase 1.5 percent from a year ago.

Financial shares were weakest, with PNC Financial Services dropping 2.6 percent to $74.30 and Wells Fargo & Co falling 1.9 percent to $41.88.

Nabors Industries Ltd fell 5.6 percent to $15.10 and was the S&P 500's worst performer after the owner of the world's largest land-drilling rig fleet warned on Tuesday that its second-quarter operating profit would fall short of market expectations.

Fastenal Co declined 2.1 percent to $46.12 after the industrial and construction supply company posted second-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street's expectations.

After the closing bell, earnings are expected from fast-food restaurant operator Yum Brands Inc. The stock was down 0.7 percent at $72.16 in midday trading.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.