NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - US stocks ended mixed on Wednesday after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting suggested it could end its QE stimulus program by the end of the year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 8.68 (0.06 per cent) to 15,291.66. The broad-based S&P 500 was also little-changed, rising 0.30 (0.02 per cent) to 1,652.62. Meanwhile the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 16.50 (0.47 per cent) to 3,520.76.
Minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting showed a significant bias toward winding up the QE bond-buying programme even before the mid-2014 target announced by Fed chief Ben Bernanke.
Yet, the minutes noted, "many members indicated that further improvement in the outlook for the labour market would be required" before a reduction in the asset purchases would be merited.
The minutes were consistent with the Fed's stance on tapering, said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer of Cornerstone Wealth Management.
"No big surprises here at all," Skrainka said. "It just reinforced the view that QE will be tapered soon, but the exact pacing and timing will depend on economic data."
Apple shares dropped 0.4 per cent after a federal judge ruled the company violated antitrust laws in conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices.
The judge ordered a new hearing to assess damages to be paid.
Tribune Company gained 3.2 per cent after announcing plans to spin off its struggling newspaper division from its growing television station holdings.
Discount retailer Family Dollar rose 7.1 per cent after beating forecasts in its fiscal third quarter, with net earnings coming in at US$1.05 cents a share, two cents higher than expected.
Dollar General, another discount retailer, rose 5.8 per cent.
Oil and gas driller Nabors Industries sank 6.3 per cent after signaling that second-quarter operating profits would be lower than analysts' expectations.
The company also said efficiency gains from operating oil companies could dent year-end profits.
Drugstore chain Walgreens rose 3.0 per cent after raising its quarterly dividend by 14.5 per cent.
Smart-phone manufacturer BlackBerry fell 3.7 per cent following a report that the company planned more layoffs amid disappointing sales of its most recent devices.
Skin-care products maker Nu Skin jumped 19.2 per cent after it sharply raised its forecast for second-quarter earnings.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.68 per cent from 2.63 per cent late Tuesday, while the 30-year pushed to 3.69 per cent from 3.65 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.