Wall St edges lower as Fed minutes offer few clues on rates

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City on Nov 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Wednesday as minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting gave investors few new clues as to when U.S. interest rates may rise.

The S&P 500 snapped a two-day streak of record closing highs.

Minutes of the U.S. central bank's Oct. 28-29 meeting, where policymakers decided to finally end their bond-buying stimulus, indicated a debate among policymakers over the outlook for inflation and the economy.

"The market doesn't really know how to react to this, whether it's a hawkish or dovish statement, but the reality is I think it's a truthful statement that we are in a very interesting spot with both headwinds and tailwinds facing this economy," said Burt White, managing director and chief investment officer at LPL Financial in Boston.

Following the release of the minutes, U.S. short-term interest-rate futures traders were still betting on a first Fed rate hike by September next year.

Tech names were among the biggest drags on the market, with the Nasdaq underperforming both the Dow and S&P 500. Shares of Microsoft fell 1.1 per cent to US$48.22 and shares of Qualcomm eased 2.1 per cent to US$70.47. Qualcomm on Wednesday gave a more conservative five-year outlook than in the past.

Among the S&P 500's biggest positives, Target Corp rose 7.4 per cent to US$72.50 and Lowe's rose 6.4 per cent to US$62.26, both after results.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.09 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 17,685.73, the S&P 500 lost 3.08 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 2,048.72 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 26.73 points, or 0.57 pe rcent, to 4,675.71.

Earlier on Wednesday, Goldman Sachs analysts said the Fed, once it begins to tighten monetary policy, would raise short-term interest rates faster and to higher levels than current market expectations.