U.S. Stocks Get Caught Between Yellen and the Shutdown

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks were little changed Wednesday as President Obama's nomination of Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve offset fears of a federal default amid the ongoing debt-ceiling debate in Washington.

Yellen's all but assured ascension to the Fed's top post signaled to investors that its sweeping stimulus program is likely to remain in place. Yet, lawmakers in Washington appeared to be making little progress toward a resolution that could resolve the government's partial shutdown, now in its eighth day.

The S&P 500 rose 0.06% to close at 1,656.42.

Yellen, the bank's current vice-chair is expected to continue to push to continue the Fed's bond-buying stimulus measures while focusing on job creation as much or more than inflation.

Minutes from the Fed's September meeting, which printed Wednesday, shows that the decision not to taper just yet was "a relatively close call," among the officials. "With financial markets appearing to expect a reduction in purchases at this meeting, concerns were raised about the effectiveness of FOMC communications if the Committee did not take that step," the minutes said.

As for the government shutdown that began Oct. 1, Obama said he is willing to negotiate with Republican leaders. Obama said he would begin talks if Republicans move to promptly end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, even if it was only for a temporary four to six weeks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up by 0.18% to 14,803.18. The Nasdaq was lower by 0.46% to 3,677.78.

Prior to the Yellen announcement, the Fed is scheduled to release a summary of its September policy meeting, a gathering at which policymakers maintained the current pace of their bond-buying program amid concerns that current fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. The minutes will be released at 2 p.m.

K12 Inc. ( LRN ) plummeted more than 39% after shares of the online education services were cut to "neutral" from "outperform" at Baird and to "market perform" from "outperform" at BMO after the company said that average student enrollments rose 5.7% to 128,550 in the first quarter fiscal 2014 from a year ago, which was below management's own expectations.

Ariad Pharmaceuticals ( ARIA ) shares plunged more than 65% after the company admitted Wednesday that its leukemia drug Iclusig causes more blood clots and heart-related side effects than previously reported, forcing the company to halt enrollment in Iclusig clinical trials and advise patients currently on the drug to lower the dose.

Yum! Brands ( YUM ) surrendered more than 6% after the fast-food restaurant group reported third-quarter earnings that were lower than expected as same-store sales in China dropped 11% in the quarter.

Men's specialty retailers JoS. A. Bank Clothiers ( JOSB ) and The Men's Wearhouse ( MW ) were both surging after JoS. A. Bank confirmed media reports that it has approached Men's Wearhouse to buy the company for $48 a share in cash in a $2.3 billion deal, representing a roughly 42% premium to the closing price of the acquisition target on September 17, the day before the proposal was made. However, The Men's Warehouse on Wednesday rejected the approach saying that it "significantly undervalues" the company. Men's Wearhouse shares jumped more than 27% and Jos. A. Bank advanced more than 6.5%.

Alcoa ( AA ) popped more than 2% after the largest U.S. aluminum producer posted profits that beat analyst forecasts.

-- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.>

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