US STOCKS-S&P 500 ends flat; Fed gives no word on tapering
* Fed statement offers no hint of stimulus pullback
* Facebook falls after trading above IPO price of $38
* Dow off 0.1 pct; S&P 500 off 0.01 pct; Nasdaq up 0.3 pct
NEW YORK, July 31 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 finished a volatile session nearly flat on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve gave no hint that a reduction in the pace of its bond-buying program is imminent.
After paring most of the day's gains just before the close, the S&P 500 ended July up 5 percent - its best monthly percentage increase since January.
In a statement following its two-day policy meeting, the Fed said the economy continues to recover but still needs support.
Stocks mostly extended gains following the Fed's statement, led by S&P indexes tracking consumer discretionary, energy and other growth sectors. The S&P consumer discretionary index ended up 0.5 percent.
At the same time, dividend-paying stocks such as utilities slipped. The S&P utility index slid 0.7 percent.
"The Fed continues to try to talk down the concerns of kind of a premature taper. In fact, there were even tones in this piece that were a little disinflationary," said Burt White, chief investment officer of LPL Financial in Boston.
The Fed's stimulus has been credited by many as central to the S&P 500's gain of 18.2 percent so far this year. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke jolted markets in late May by saying the central bank planned to ease back on its stimulus efforts once the economy improves.
Late in the session, shares of J.C. Penney sank 10.2 percent to $14.60 after commercial lender CIT Group stopped supporting deliveries from smaller manufacturers to the retailer, according to a New York Post report. The stock was the S&P 500's biggest percentage loser.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 21.05 points, or 0.14 percent, to end at 15,499.54. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dipped 0.23 of a point, or 0.01 percent, to finish at 1,685.73.
In contrast, the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 9.90 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 3,626.37.
The Dow set an all-time intraday high of 15,634.32 early in the session, while the Nasdaq reached a session high of 3,649.35, its highest since late 2000.
All three major U.S. stock indexes posted healthy gains for the month of July. The Dow rose 4 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 5 percent and the Nasdaq gained 6.6 percent.
The S&P 500 rose to less than 2 points from hitting 1,700, considered a key level of resistance for the market. The index has struggled to break above the mark, and for 10 straight sessions, it has traded within 10 points of 1,700. A rise above that level could signal that stocks have more room to rise.
In Wednesday's session, the shares of credit card companies ranked among the biggest losers. Shares of Visa dropped 7.5 percent to $177.01 and had the biggest negative impact on the S&P 500. Shares of American Express, a Dow component, slid 1.9 percent to $73.77.
In another milestone set earlier in the session, Facebook Inc's stock traded above its initial public offering price of $38 for the first time since its market debut in May 2012. The stock rose as high as $38.31. Facebook closed at $36.80, down 2.2 percent.
Comcast Corp gave the S&P 500 its biggest boost after the U.S. cable provider posted a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, as it added more Internet customers than expected on the cable side and booked an increase of more than 20 percent in operating cash flow at its NBC Universal unit. Comcast's Class A stock rose 5.6 percent to close at $45.08.