* FOMC minutes show members want more job gains before
* Family Dollar shares at seven-month high after earnings
* Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P 500 flat, Nasdaq up 0.5 pct
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, July 10 The Dow slipped and the S&P
500 edged up less than a point on Wednesday, interrupting a
four-day rally, with investors trying to gauge when the Federal
Reserve may scale back on its economic stimulus.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's June policy meeting
released on Wednesday afternoon showed many officials wanted
more reassurance that the labor market was improving before
reining in stimulus measures. Even so, consensus built within
the Fed about the likely need to begin pulling back soon.
The three major U.S. stock indexes recovered some ground
immediately following the release of the minutes. But the gains
were short-lived as investors parsed the details of the minutes.
The Dow closed slightly lower to break a four-day winning
streak, while the broader S&P 500 eked out a tiny gain.
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.
Some in the market have pegged September as when the Fed
could potentially start pulling back. Still, the minutes
suggested that was not a foregone conclusion.
"The minutes are more consistent with the messages we've
been getting since the Fed meeting, which is that we should
expect this to occur slowly and it may not happen in September,"
said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St
"This, if anything, raises the uncertainty about will it be
September or December."
The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 8.68 points,
or 0.06 percent, to end at 15,291.66. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index inched up just 0.30 of a point, or 0.02 percent, to
finish at 1,652.62. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained
16.50 points, or 0.47 percent, to 3,520.76.
The S&P 500 has risen more than 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.
With the Fed's quantitative easing program a significant
driver of this year's rally in the stock market, the question of
when and by how much the central bank could pull back has been a
major focal point for investors.
After an initial selloff following Bernanke's comments in
June, equities have taken a more positive tone in recent days on
optimism that the economy is indeed on firm enough ground to
justify slowing the $85 billion a month in bond purchases, known
as quantitative easing, or "QE."
That view was reinforced by last week's
stronger-than-expected jobs report for June.
"The fear was that the Fed would remove QE for non-economic
reasons, like they were worried about bubbles or that the cost
of QE was exceeding its benefit ... and that got the equity
market nervous," said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of
multi-asset strategies at ING U.S. Investment Management in New
"Now when you start to see employment numbers come in like
the Fed's forecast had expected, then it's appropriate that they
In the retail sector, Family Dollar Stores Inc shot
up 7.1 percent to $68.50. The stock was the S&P 500's top
performer after the discount chain posted quarterly earnings and
ended at a seven-month high.
On the downside, Nabors Industries Ltd slid 6.3
percent to $14.99. The stock 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 2.8 percent to $45.77 after
the industrial and construction supply company posted
second-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street's expectations.
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.