What a difference a word makes. In the December FOMC statement, the Federal Reserve added the word "substantial" to characterize the downturn in the U.S. housing market. Investors took the change to mean the central bank was slightly more dovish. The hope was that the Fed might loosen its grip on its tightening bias, if not signal it is contemplating future rate cuts.

But such hopes were dashed Wednesday when the minutes of that same December FOMC meeting came out at 2 p.m. EST.

"The market is disappointed we're not seeing a Fed that becomes less hawkish and opens the door to rate cuts," says Art Hogan, chief markets analyst at Jefferies & Co. "There wasn't enough of a shift to neutral."

The stock market, which already was giving back a bit of its substantial morning rally, reversed completely in the wake of the minutes; major averages fell sharply in the afternoon before bouncing in the final hour to close mixed and not far from break-even. Still, the most interesting and telling portions of the FOMC minutes were largely overlooked and suggest the Fed is unlikely to signal any moves anytime soon.

After hitting a record intraday high of 12,580.35 in the morning and then falling to as low as 12,404 midafternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Wednesday up 0.09% to close at 12,474.04. The Nasdaq Composite closed the day up 0.33% at 2423.16, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.11% to close at 1416.70. The Comp and S&P sustained similar intraday volatility.

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