Stocks slipped on Wednesday as cautious investors were skeptical that the Federal Reserve would offer any positive surpises with actions to further stimulate the faltering economy.
The Fed is widely expected to announce plans to shift its portfolio in favor of longer-dated bonds, pushing long-term interest rates -- already near historic lows -- even lower in a move known as Operation Twist. A Fed statement is expected at 2:15 p.m. EDT.
The move, intended to flatten or twist the yield curve, is one step by the Fed that investors say has already been priced into the market, but additional stimulus measures may also come.
Looks like the markets are not looking for a whole lot, said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville, pointing to Wall Street's flat ending flat on Tuesday after an initial rally, and its further decline on Wednesday.
I would think that Bernanke would have something more than that today simply because the economy looks like it's certainly in jeopardy of falling into recession ... The next meeting is not until November, and the closer we get to the election, the less influence the Fed is perceived as wanting to have over the markets.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 40.12 points, or 0.35 percent, at 11,368.54. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 7.61 points, or 0.63 percent, at 1,194.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 7.11 points, or 0.27 percent, at 2,597.35.
Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 declined.
Technology shares rallied, lifted by positive earnings and outlooks from software makers Oracle Corp
Oracle surged 8.9 percent to $30.86 a day after forecasting higher-than-expected earnings for the current quarter as well as robust sales. Earlier, Oracle climbed to nearly an 8-week high.
Adobe shot up 3.5 percent to $25.50 after forecasting fourth-quarter sales above estimates.
I think Apple, somewhat like IBM right now, is being viewed by the market almost like a safe haven in this environment, said Mark Bayko, portfolio adviser for U.S. and international equities at RBC Dominion Securities in Toronto.
People are floating to those names just out of comfort ... relative to more economically sensitive stories and financial stories that are vulnerable with what's happening in Europe.
(Reporting by Claire Sibonney; Editing by Jan Paschal)