* S&P 500 coming off two-day rally, near record close
* Fed statement largely as expected
* First Solar jumps after outlook
* Indexes off: Dow 0.19 pct; S&P 500 0.14 pct; Nasdaq 0.17
(Adds Fed announcement)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 19 U.S. stocks edged lower on
Wednesday as after the release of the Federal Reserve's policy
statement and looked ahead to comments from Federal Reserve
Chair Janet Yellen.
The central bank dropped the U.S. unemployment rate as its
definitive yardstick for gauging the economy's strength, and
made clear it would rely on a wide range of measures in deciding
when to raise interest rates. The Fed also said it would cut its
monthly purchases of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed
securities to $55 billion, from $65 billion.
"Other areas of the economy are continuing to show signs of
gradual improvement, but the Fed was looking for a much stronger
economic background before it would start any type of tightening
efforts, so it would continue to support liquidity in the
marketplace," said Paul Mangus, head of equity research and
strategy at Wells Fargo Private Bank in Charlotte, North
"The one difference I could see early on, of course we want
to hear more from the chair in the press conference, was a
little bit more information on when and by how much the Fed may
increase rates in 2015."
Fed Chair Janet Yellen was holding a news conference, her
first as chair.
The S&P 500 was within 1 percent of its intraday record
high, though economic bellwether FedEx Corp hit a sour
note in its outlook. Geopolitical concerns related to Ukraine
also stayed in focus.
FedEx posted results below expectations and gave a weak
full-year profit forecast, but the package shipper said it had
been significantly hurt by winter storms, and the stock slipped
0.3 percent to $138.21.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.56 points or
0.19 percent, to 16,304.63, the S&P 500 lost 2.53 points
or 0.14 percent, to 1,869.72 and the Nasdaq Composite
dropped 7.471 points or 0.17 percent, to 4,325.842.
Equities have rallied this week, buoyed by easing
geopolitical concerns, though trading volume has been light. The
S&P 500 has climbed 1.7 percent over the past two days,
the best back-to-back performance for the benchmark index since
Ukraine's acting defense minister said the country's forces
would not withdraw from Crimea after the region voted to join
Russia in a disputed referendum.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty to make
Crimea part of Russia. While no violence was reported as
pro-Russian forces took control of part of a Ukraine naval base,
investors are concerned that tensions in the region could
First Solar Inc surged 17 percent to $67.24 and
ranked as the S&P 500's best performer after the company gave
its outlook for 2014 and 2015.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan
Paschal and Nick Zieminski)