Stocks edged lower on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve acknowledged the sluggish pace of the U.S. economic recovery, but gave no hint of further plans for stimulus.

Stocks showed little movement after the Fed said the recovery was proceeding more slowly than it had expected, though it was primarily because of temporary factors.

Comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke also offered nothing that would suggest the Fed might embark on a third round of economic stimulus after the second, known as QE2, ends this month.

QE2 was a boat, and he is basically trying to bring this boat into port with as few wobbles as possible, said Burt White, managing director and chief investment officer of LPL Financial in Boston.

With all the ripples and choppy water and stuff that is going on in the market as we speak, he was going to give the impression that the weather was transitory, that the market is fine and he is ready to dock this boat, he said.

Expectations about QE2 last fall helped create an extended rally in stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 14.53 points, or 0.12 percent, at 12,175.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.79 points, or 0.06 percent, at 1,294.73. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 0.23 points, or 0.01 percent, at 2,687.03.

Economic bellwether FedEx Corp rose 3 percent to $91.84, lending support to the market after the shipping group reported strong fourth-quarter profit and forecast robust 2012 earnings.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT> gained 0.4 percent.

Net short positions by hedge funds on the S&P 500 have risen recently, according to Societe Generale cross-asset research.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)