Stocks end marginally lower as Fed weighs global concerns

The Federal Reserve's minutes helped the markets rally in afternoon trading. Nick Kariuki/Medill
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on LaSalle Street at Jackson Boulevard. Markets rallied briefly Wednesday on the Federal Reserve’s policy minutes but ended the day lower. Nick Kariuki/Medill

By Nick Kariuki

The stock market ended slightly lower Thursday after briefly rallying in the afternoon in response to minutes from the Federal Reserve’s October policy meeting.

In the minutes, Fed officials expressed concern over the state of the global economy and low inflation, while at the same time pointing to the strengthening domestic economy as the basis for its decision to end its bond purchasing program.

“We are in uncharted territory right now,” William Hummer, chief economist at Wayne Hummer Investments, said about the uncertainty and the volatility of the global markets. ”The Fed is doing it’s best to anticipate what lies ahead but we’ll see if it works or not.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.09 points, or 0.01 percent, to close at 17,685.73. The S&P 500 index dropped 3.08 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 2,048.72.  The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 26.73 points, or 0.57 percent, to close at 4,675.71.

Wednesday’s decline was a breather from record highs for the Dow and S&P posted earlier this week.  Investors have been riding high on the strong domestic economic indicator reports and positive earnings announcements from companies.

The S&P 500’s biggest movers were retailers Staples Inc., Target Corp. and Lowe’s Cos. Inc., which all reported better earnings than expected and logged sharp gains. Staples rose $1.16, or 9 percent, to closed at $13.92; Target Corp. rose $4.99, or 7.4 percent, to close at $72.50; and Lowe’s rose $3.73, or 6.4 percent, to close at $62.26.

Oil prices ended 30 cents lower at $74.31 per barrel in New York Mercantile Exchange trading.

Earlier in the day, the Commerce Department reported that housing starts fell unexpectedly, dropping 2.8 percent, while building permits rose by 4.8 percent, better than the 0.9 percent projected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The price of a U.S. 10-year Treasury fell and the yield rose to 2.357 percent Wednesday from 2.32 percent on Tuesday.