Dow Falls as FOMC Minutes Reveal Possible Rate Hike, U.S. Steel Sinks

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks fell Wednesday after Federal Reserve minutes revealed that members debated raising interest rates.

  • The S&P 500 closed 0.65% lower at 1,828.75, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.56% to 16,040.56. The Nasdaq slid 0.82% to 4,237.95.
  • Minutes of the Federal Reserve's Jan. 29 meeting indicated that the central bank is closer to getting rid of its jobless rate threshold of 6.5% with discussions about the replacement for this guidance approach still under way. The minutes also indicated "a few" participants considering the need to raise the benchmark interest rate as unemployment falls.
  • The IMF warns that protracted emerging market troubles and the eurozone's ongoing deflationary conditions are putting the global economy at risk, adding to jitters about the mounting political unrest in the Ukraine.
  • Construction of new U.S. homes dived 16% in January to an annual rate of 880,000, the biggest fall since February 2011, according to government data on Wednesday. Expectations were for 950,000 housing starts. Poor weather was blamed for sluggish construction.
  • United States Steel (X) was the worst decliner in the S&P 500, retreating 7% to $24.86 along with other steelmakers after the Department of Commerce chose not to impose tariffs on South Korean steel pipes.
  • Comcast (CMCSA) was among the most actively traded stocks Wednesday, losing 3.7% to $51.57 as Bloomberg reported that Comcast is planning its first bond sale after agreeing to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC) for $45.2 billion in stock last week.
  • Nabors Industries (NBR), the biggest gainer in the S&P, jumped 13.3% to $21.15 on the company's report Tuesday following the market close a better-than-expected fourth quarter, reflecting momentum in its international operations and a more favorable outlook for our U.S. drilling operations.
  • Garmin (GRMN) was another top advancer, surging 9.6% to $51.68 after booking stronger-than-forecast quarterly earnings that were bolstered by its aviation and fitness revenues.
  • CF Industries (CF) added 5.1% to $237.62 after the company's fourth-quarter earnings and revenue beat analysts' expectations.
  • The producer price index rose 0.2% in January under the government's new formula for wholesale inflation. Over the past year, wholesale prices have risen 1.2%, the highest level in three months. The Labor Department has overhauled the producer price index for the first time since 1978 to reflect the larger portion of the economy represented by retail, finance, education and health services.

-- Written by Andrea Tse, Jane Searle and Joe Deaux in New York

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