US stocks : Dow off 0.3 pct
Stocks were flat for most of the session prior to the Fed statement at the end of a two-day policy meeting. The Fed repeated its pledge to keep purchasing securities until employment improves substantially.
The statement followed data that showed the economy, as measured by gross domestic product, unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter. Economists stressed that the 0.1 percent contraction, caused partly by a plunge in government spending and lower business inventories, is not an indicator of recession.
"The unemployment rate is likely to fall below 6.5 percent next year, so the Fed may be raising interest rates as soon as mid-2014. The fiscal drag from the tax increases will be offset this quarter by rebuilding post-Sandy, so real GDP growth should still come in at 2 percent," said Kurt Karl, chief economist at Swiss Re.
The S&P 500 held above 1,500, seen by technical analysts as an inflection point that will determine the overall direction in the near term. The index is on track to post its best month since October 2011 and its best January since 1997.
"This is a very modest pullback after a steep run," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management in New York.
"It is too soon for the Fed to start talking about the end of (their bond buying program). The economy needs stimulus to
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