* Dow, S&P both rise and fall more than 1 pct in same
* FOMC minutes show members open to tapering, disagreement
* Bernanke touts benefits of Fed easing, but hints could act
* Dow off 0.5 pct, S&P off 0.8 pct, Nasdaq off 1.1 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 22 U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday
with the S&P 500 posting its biggest decline in three weeks,
after minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting
showed some officials were open to tapering large-scale asset
purchases as early as at the June meeting.
Trading was volatile - the Dow and the S&P indexes both rose
more than 1 percent during the morning, but fell more than 1
percent in the afternoon.
The minutes followed comments from Chairman Ben Bernanke,
who said the Fed could decide to scale back the pace of bond
purchases at one of the "next few meetings" if the economic
recovery looked set to maintain forward momentum.
The comments were a blow to a market that had accelerated
after Bernanke said the central bank needed to see further signs
of traction in the economy before it tapered stimulus.
"This is a very sensitive market and particularly sensitive
to any notion that tapering will come too soon," said Quincy
Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in New York.
"No one wants to be selling if the data reaches the point
when the Fed begins to specifically talk about tapering. The
market doesn't wait for the Fed to move. It will move before.
That's how it operates."
Krosby also added that Bernanke went off-script and in his
effort to be transparent, "he confused the market."
According to the minutes of the April 30-May 1 policy
meeting released on Wednesday, "a number" of officials were open
to tapering large-scale asset purchases as early as the June
meeting, but disagreement continued on what conditions would
suffice to begin that move.
One official preferred to begin decreasing purchases
immediately and another wanted to add more accommodation
immediately, but ultimately most felt it was important simply to
be prepared to adjust the pace up or down in response to
Investors have increasingly turned their attention to when
the Fed's current $85 billion-per-month bond purchase program
might end or slow. The stimulus has been a major force behind a
rally in U.S. equities that has helped the S&P 500 and Dow
industrials gain about 16-17 percent so far this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 80.41
points, or 0.52 percent, at 15,307.17. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 13.81 points, or 0.83 percent, at
1,655.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 38.82
points, or 1.11 percent, at 3,463.30.
The S&P 500 rose as high as 1,687.18 and fell as low as
1,648.86 during Wednesday's trading session while the Dow rose
as high as 15,542.40 and fell as low as 15,265.96.
"You have more volatility than you've had for a long time,"
said Uri Landesman, president, Platinum Partners in New York.
"The technician in me looks at a rocket shot straight up and
says you could get a pretty good correction here without that
much work. There aren't really solid levels of support on the
way down because we broke through all of them so quickly."
All 10 sectors on the S&P 500 closed negative, with energy
and utilities leading the decline. The energy sector index
fell 1.2 percent while the utilities sector
fell 1.6 percent.
Bristol-Myers Squibb shares rose 5.3 percent at
$46.40 after a Citi note highlighted excitement surrounding
so-called immunotherapy, in the wake of positive results from
clinical trials conducted by companies such as Bristol-Myers and
Target Corp cited unseasonably cold weather as it
reported a 0.6 percent decline in first-quarter sales at U.S.
stores open at least a year. Target cut its full-year profit
forecast and shares slid 4 percent to $68.40.
Toll Brothers shares rose 2.9 percent to $37.07
after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder posted a 46 percent
rise in quarterly profit, suggesting the housing recovery is
picking up pace across the industry.