NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks had little direction on Wednesday, buffeting the flatline for much of the day as investors digested weak retail and business inventory data and what it might mean for the Federal Reserve's rate hike timeline.
U.S. retail sales in April were unchanged, falling below an expected 0.3% increase after 0.9% growth in March. Sales excluding autos rose 0.1%, according to the Commerce Department, falling short of forecasts for 0.4% growth.
Business inventories in the U.S. in March came in slightly lower than expected, gaining just 0.1% compared to 0.2% growth in the prior month. Economists had expected growth of 0.2%.
"If growth momentum does not rebound more meaningfully in the coming months, even the September meeting (which is still our base-case for liftoff) might be too soon for the [Federal Reserve] to gain the necessary confidence in the sustainability of the recovery to justify policy tightening," wrote TD Securities' Millan Mulraine in a research note.
The S&P 500 fell 0.03%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.04%, and the Nasdaq added 0.11% on Wednesday. Wall Street had hoped to break a two-day losing streak triggered by a global bond selloff.
Dow component DuPont (DD) was 6.8% lower after no Trian Fund Management nominees were elected to the board at DuPont's annual shareholder meeting. Activist investor Nelson Peltz of Trian had tried for a seat, even though the company had previously refused and rejected his demands to split the company into two.
Pall (PLL) and Danaher (DHR) shares moved higher after Danaher agreed to acquire the filtration system manufacturer for $127.20 a share, or a total $13.8 billion. Danaher also announced that after the acquisition the company will split into two independent, publicly traded companies, one focusing on science and technology and the other on industrials.