Closing Bell: Stocks Little Changed After Fed Statement, Q2 GDP

Specialists Peter Kennedy, Bernard Wheeler, and Philip Finale, left to right, confer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Steady growth in the U.S. economy and higher company earnings are pushing the stock market higher in early trading. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew/AP

Wall Street stocks ended a volatile session near flat Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve offered no indication that a reduction in the pace of its stimulus program is imminent.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 21.05 points or 0.14 percent, to end at 15,499.54, a steep drop from a record intraday high of 15,634.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) was essentially flat, losing less than point to end at 1,685.72. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) advanced 9.90 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 3,626.37.

Stocks were in positive territory most of the day and stayed higher after the Federal Reserve released its updated policy statement at the end of a two-day meeting. The central bank said it will keep buying the same amount of bonds to help lower long-term interest rates.

The Fed's announcement followed upbeat news about the nation's economy. The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.7 percent from April through June as businesses spent more and the federal government cut less spending. Economists had expected growth of 1 percent for the period, according to the data provider FactSet.

U.S. businesses created a healthy 200,000 jobs in July, payroll company ADP said, as companies hired at the fastest pace since December. ADP also raised its estimate of the number of jobs the private sector created in June.

IBM (IBM) said that federal regulators are looking into how it reports sales for its cloud-computing business. The technology company disclosed in a regulatory filing Wednesday that it learned in May that the Securities and Exchange Commission was conducting an investigation, but provided no further details about what regulators are looking into or the status of the inquiry. IBM said in July that its cloud revenue is up more than 70 percent in the first half of its fiscal year. It has a target of reaching $7 billion in cloud-computing revenue by 2015. The SEC declined to comment. Shares of IBM fell 84 cents to $195.17.

More Stocks in the News:

  • Shares of MasterCard (MA) rose $12.13, or 2 percent, to $613.55, after the payments-processing company reported a 19 percent increase in its second-quarter profit as more people worldwide used its debit and credit cards to make payments.

  • Comcast (CMCSA, CMCSK) rose $2.41, or 5.6 percent, to $45.12 after the parent company of the NBC network and Universal Studios reported earnings and revenue that exceeded analyst expectations in the second quarter.

  • Vonage Holdings (VG) fell 14 cents, or 4 percent, $3.23, despite posting a profit in the second quarter. The company, which provides phone services through cloud-connected devices, earned $7.4 million, or 3 cents a share, for the period ended June 30, compared to a loss of $3.3 million, or a penny a share, last year.

  • Software company Symantec (SYMC), which makes Norton antivirus software, surged after reporting earnings and revenue that beat analyst forecasts. The stock rose $2.33, or 9.6 percent, to $26.68.

  • Air Products & Chemicals (APD) rose $3.09, or 2.9 percent, to $108.70 after the Wall Street journal reported that activist investor William Ackman had bought a 9.8 percent stake in the gas company.

  • Herbalife (HLF) rose $5.48, or 9.1 percent, to $65.52 after CNBC reported that the veteran hedge fund investor George Soros had taken a stake in the company. Herbalife has been at the center of a battle between investors Ackman and Carl Ichan, who are taking opposing positions in the stock.

What to Watch Thursday:

  • Automakers release vehicle sales for July.

  • Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

These reports are due at 10 a.m.:

  • Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

  • The Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for July.

  • The Commerce Department releases construction spending data for June.

These companies are scheduled to report quarterly earnings

  • American International Group Inc. (AIG)

  • Avon Products Inc. (AVP)

  • Beazer Homes USA Inc. (BZH)

  • Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)

  • Kellogg Co. (K)

  • Kraft Foods Group Inc. (KRFT)

  • LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD)

  • Procter & Gamble Co. (PG)

  • Sony Corp. (SNE)

-Compiled from staff and wire reports.