* Fed holds steady with bond buying, gives weaker growth view
* Private-sector employment below expectations, inflation muted
* General Motors rallies, profit leaps on strong demand
* Dow down 0.3 pct, S&P 500 off 0.4 pct, Nasdaq off 0.6 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 on track to snap a four-day streak of gains after the Federal Reserve said it had a weaker growth outlook for the economy, even as it held steady with its stimulus program for the time being.
Trading was volatile following the release of the statement, with major indexes briefly cutting their losses before turning south to drop to session lows. Almost three-fourths of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange declined, while all 10 S&P 500 sector indexes fell.
While it had been widely expected that the U.S. central bank wouldn’t announce any adjustments to its bond-buying program, the statement wasn’t enough to extend a rally that has taken both the Dow and S&P 500 to repeated record highs.
“While there were essentially no changes between this statement and previous ones, it is clear that even this wasn’t as dovish as some investors were expecting, especially with the bull market getting a bit long in the tooth,” said Michael Mullaney, who oversees about $10.7 billion as chief investment officer of Fiduciary Trust Co in Boston.
While the Fed’s stimulus has kept a floor under equity prices this year, there have been signs that growth is slowing, including weak economic data and an earnings season marked by tepid revenue growth.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 47.52 points, or 0.30 percent, at 15,632.83. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 7.57 points, or 0.43 percent, at 1,764.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 21.80 points, or 0.55 percent, at 3,930.53.
Many analysts expect a delay until at least March in easing the stimulus measures, which have encouraged investors to buy riskier assets, like stocks, contributing to the S&P 500’s gain of more than 20 percent this year.
The central bank has held interest rates near zero since late 2008 and quadrupled the size of its balance sheet to more than $3.7 trillion through three rounds of bond buying.
Private-sector employers hired the fewest workers in six months in October, according to a report released on Wednesday, while the consumer price index showed benign inflation. Both indicators supported the Fed’s stimulus policy.
In the latest batch of earnings, General Motors Co rose 3.1 percent to $37.18 after the U.S. automaker reported stronger-than-expected quarterly profit because of strength in its core North American market and a smaller-than-anticipated loss in Europe.
On the downside, Yelp Inc dropped 4.9 percent to $65.43 a day after it reported a wider third-quarter loss, while Western Union shares slid 12.7 percent to $16.80 after posting a steep drop in third-quarter earnings.
“Earnings haven’t been amazing, but they’ve been steady and sustainable, which the market likes enough to help us reach all-time highs,” said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds, in New York, which has $400 billion in assets under management.
“When the season ends and we focus on the macro again, that probably won’t be good for the market.”
Of the 313 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported earnings through Wednesday morning, 68.4 percent have topped Wall Street expectations, above both the 63 percent beat rate since 1994 and the 66 percent rate for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Revenue performance has been mixed, however, with 53.7 percent of S&P 500 companies beating expectations, well below the 61 percent average since 2002, but slightly above the 49 percent rate for the last four quarters.