U.S. stocks broke a six-day winning streak on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 ending a hair lower after the Federal Reserve suggested additional measures may be needed to combat a weakening economy.
Optimism over the start of earnings season limited declines after Intel Corp reported better-than-expected results on signs of renewed corporate spending. Shares of Intel rose 1.7 percent to $21.36, helping keep the Dow and Nasdaq slightly higher.
Minutes of the Fed's June meeting showed officials are more concerned with the pace of economic recovery. That added to jitters stoked by a weak report on June retail sales.
Markets have been rattled in recent weeks as investors try to assess the extent of the renewed weakness. Though earnings and comments from Alcoa and Intel have been positive, worries over the economy remain.
The Fed's minutes put the central bank in the slow patch camp, said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.
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Essentially, it has confirmed some of the fears of investors, namely that the recovery is going to take some time, and that's the last thing we wanted to hear from the Fed, Hellwig said.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> edged up 3.70 points, or 0.04 percent, to end at 10,366.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dipped just 0.17 of a point, or 0.02 percent, to 1,095.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 7.81 points, or 0.35 percent, to close at 2,249.84.
Earlier, the S&P 500 touched an intraday high at 1,099.08 and the Nasdaq was up as much as 0.8 percent at a session high of 2,260.33.
The consumer discretionary sector <.GSPD> was among the S&P 500's biggest losers, giving up 0.5 percent. Shares of youth-oriented retailer Abercrombie & Fitch lost 0.8 percent to $35.93.
The Commerce Department reported that U.S. retailers' June sales declined 0.5 percent -- more than twice the 0.2 percent drop forecast by economists polled by Reuters.
Bank stocks also ranked among the biggest drags, with the KBW Bank Index <.BKX> down 1.6 percent. JPMorgan Chase & Co , which reports results on Thursday, slipped 0.3 percent to $40.35.
Smaller banks also fell, including Zions Bancorp , which lost 3.6 percent to $23.33, while Regions Financial dropped 3.1 percent to $7.15.
A congressional watchdog agency warned that smaller banks that received government bailout money are likely to run into trouble repaying it and may become vulnerable to takeovers.
The pharmaceutical sector registered a healthy reaction to news about GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
U.S.-listed shares of GlaxoSmithKline Plc rose 1.8 percent to $36.35 after health advisers said its diabetes drug Avandia should be allowed to stay on the market in some form. The decision by the Food and Drug Administration's panel reduced the threat of more litigation, which could have followed a ban of the drug.
An index of pharmaceutical companies' shares <.DRG> gained 0.5 percent.
Elsewhere on the earnings front, fast-food chain operator Yum Brands Inc gave a full-year profit outlook late on Tuesday that was below expectations. The stock fell 1.2 percent to $41.00.
About 7.59 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, sharply below last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
Decliners beat advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of 16 to 13, while on the Nasdaq, about 15 stocks fell for every 11 that rose.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)