* Staples tumbles, Lowe's rises after results
* Home resales hit more than three-year high
* Goldman Sachs falls, weighs on financials
* Indexes off: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Aug 21 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Wednesday, with investors reluctant to make big bets before the
Federal Reserve publishes the minutes of its July policy-setting
Market participants have been cautious recently and the S&P
500 has dropped for five of the past six sessions amid
uncertainty over how soon the Fed will begin to wind down its
$85-billion a month stimulus program.
The central bank said the policy, which has fueled Wall
Street's steep gains this year, could be slowed as early as
September, assuming economic growth meets its targets.
The Fed minutes, scheduled to be released at 2:00 p.m. EDT
(1800 GMT), may provide clues to the timing and scope of the
"Everyone is searching for clarity. There's confusion over
how much things will be tapered, if at all, and while there may
not be any surprise, everyone is waiting to dissect what comes
out," said Mike Gibbs, co-head of the equity advisory group at
Raymond James in Memphis, Tennessee.
In the latest economic report, U.S. home resales rose in
July to their highest level in over three years, suggesting that
a surge in mortgage rates is having only a limited impact on the
housing market recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 54.57
points, or 0.36 percent, at 14,948.42. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 5.10 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,647.25.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.80 points, or 0.11
percent, at 3,609.79.
The S&P 500 rose on Tuesday to halt a four-day losing streak
but remained under technical pressure as it closed below its
50-day moving average for a third straight session. The level,
near 1,658, is becoming technical resistance.
"I was hoping to see follow-up to (Tuesday's) rally, but so
far, the sellers are back in control," said Gibbs, who helps
oversee $450 billion in assets. "Keeping yesterday's momentum is
Financial shares were among the weakest of the day,
dropping 0.7 percent. Goldman Sachs was one of the
biggest drags on the sector, down 1.4 percent at $157.27.
Market makers and traders waited to hear details on a flood
of erroneous trades that hit U.S. equity options markets on
Tuesday when Goldman Sachs sent orders accidentally
because of a technical error.
Retailers were in focus for a second day, with earnings
reports from Lowe's, Target and others. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF
fell 1.2 percent to $79.14.
Target warned its annual profit may be near the low
end of its forecast as consumer spending remains cautious,
sending shares down 4 percent to $65.25.
Staples reported weaker-than-expected quarterly
results on dismal sales in international markets and cut its
outlook for the year. Shares slumped 13 percent to $14.60.
On the upside, home improvement chain Lowe's rose
4.9 percent to $46.27 after it reported a bigger-than-expected
rise in profit and sales as the housing market's recovery
encouraged people to spend more on their homes.
Shares of Toll Brothers rose 1 percent to $31.97
after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder reported a jump in
revenue as the recovery in the housing market gathered pace.
Incyte Corp soared 27 percent to $34.19 after the
company reported positive data from a mid-stage cancer drug