Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell agreed that markets over-reacted to the central bank's statements on tapering.
"Market adjustments since May have been larger than would be justified by any reasonable reassessment of the path of policy," Powell said in a speech. "To the extent the market is pricing in an increase in the federal funds rate in 2014, that implies a stronger economic performance than is forecast either by most FOMC participants or by private forecasters."
Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart, meanwhile, said the U.S. economy's path will determine the fate of the central bank's bond buying, but it would be appropriate to pull back a bit if the economy performs as expected.
"There is no 'predetermined' pace of reductions in the asset purchases, nor is the stopping point fixed," Lockhart said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Kiwanis Club of Marietta. "The pace of purchases, the composition of purchases and the ultimate size of the Fed's balance sheet still depend on how economic conditions evolve."
Markets have been fixated on Fed commentary this week, after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that the central bank could begin to wind down its $85 billion monthly bond purchases before the end of the year. That sent already rising yields higher and sent stocks on a roller-coaster ride.
Meanwhile, Apple hovered around the $400 level. Earlier, Susquehanna cut its price target on the iPhone maker to $440 from $480 with a "neutral" rating. The stock has declined nearly 45 percent from its all-time high in September.
Among earnings, ConAgra gained after the food producer posted earnings that edged past expectations, while revenue largely met forecasts. The company also said it is benefiting from its Ralcorp acquisition, but is facing some profit headwinds in its commercial foods segment.
KBHome edged higher after the homebuilder posted a narrower-than-expected loss and topped revenue expectations.
McCormick posted quarterly results that were in line with estimates, but the spice maker lowered its full-year earnings forecast to reflect weakness in its industrial markets.
Nike and Accenture are among notable companies slated to post results after the closing bell. trade.
Men's Wearhouse's ousted executive chairman, George Zimmer, fired off an angry open letter to the retailer's board on Wednesday evening.
Treasury prices extended their gains as yields tumbled to session lows following the data and after the auction of $29 billion in seven-year notes saw healthy demand.
(Read More: Why All the Bond Selling Hysteria May Be Overdone)