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Fed Keeps Stocks in Check

Updated from 4:14 p.m. EDT

Next week's Federal Reserve interest rate meeting kept traders from taking big positions Friday, and stocks, after an uneven session, closed modestly lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 30.02 points, or 0.27%, at 10,989.09, and the S&P 500 lost 1.10 points, or 0.09%, to 1244.50. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 1.52 points, or 0.07%, to 2121.47.

The Nasdaq got limited support from a 6.7% gain in Sirius Satellite Radio (SIRI) and a 4% rise in Oracle (ORCL).

"All bets are off until the Fed meets and gives us some certainty to the next step, and today was a perfect display of that," said Jay Suskind, head of institutional equity trading with Ryan Beck & Co. "If the statement gives us some uncertainty, we'll struggle. The market will only be able to stabilize if we have some certainty."

For the week, the Dow lost 25 points, or 0.2%. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 notched losses of 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively.

Volume was low again, with about 1.41 billion shares moving on the New York Stock Exchange. Decliners matched advancers. About 1.60 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq, where losers edged winners 8 to 7.

Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist with Spencer Clarke, said that over the short term, the market has room to move higher. "Based on a number of readings, the amount of bearish sentiment indicates higher prices over the near term," he said. "We're still concerned over a slowing economy, though."

The 10-year Treasury bond was down 3/32 in price to yield 5.22%, and the dollar rose against the yen and euro.

One factor that figured into trading was the Commerce Department's report that durable-goods orders unexpectedly fell 0.3% in May. Economists expected the data to show that orders for long-lasting products such as appliances and furniture rose by 0.4% last month after falling by 4.4% in April.

The report is one of the last big economic releases prior to the Fed's two-day meeting in Washington next week. Financial markets are currently pricing in 100% odds of another 25-basis-point rate hike, the 17th such increase in as many meetings. Odds of another hike in August currently sit near 85%.

"Interest rates are the focus today," said Peter Cardillo, chief market strategist with S.W. Bach & Co. "Durable goods is a volatile number and can be somewhat erratic. We still have concerns about an economic slowdown, which is a dark cloud over the market."

Commodity prices were mixed. August crude reversed early weakness and was up 31 cents to $71.15 a barrel in Nymex floor trading. Gold rose $2.60 to finish at $588 an ounce, and silver tacked on 7 cents to $10.28 an ounce. Copper added 10.5 cents to close at $3.24 a pound.

To view Gregg Greenberg's video take on today's market, click here

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