US STOCKS-Wall Street falls on Fed uncertainty, profit taking

Angela Moon
Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 | 10:23 AM ET

* Fed uncertainty curbs appetite for risky assets

* Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to speak at town hall meeting

* Macy's sales rise more than expected; shares jump

* Indexes down: Dow 0.4 pct; S&P 0.2 pct; Nasdaq 0.1 pct

NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as uncertainty over how soon the Federal Reserve will begin to wind down its stimulus hurt the appeal of equities.

Major U.S. stock indexes extended their losses from the previous session, consolidating after recent gains lifted the Dow index to a record close earlier this week.

Investors awaited comments from Fed speakers, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, due to speak at 7:00 p.m. EST, for clues on the longevity of the Fed's stimulus, which has propped up the U.S. economy and equity market for much of the year.

Bernanke's speech comes on the heels of divergent remarks by several other Fed officials; Minneapolis Fed Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said Tuesday monetary policy should remain accommodative. In contrast, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told CNBC the Fed's massive bond purchases cannot continue forever.

Some market participants speculate that the Fed could begin to scale back stimulus as early as December, after the Labor Department said Friday the U.S. economy created 204,000 jobs in October.

"We are bouncing back and forth here because the market is divided on higher rates and the benefits of a strong economy. Investors have not made up their mind on which is more of a driving force for the market," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Investors are also likely to refrain from making big bets ahead of the Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday with Janet Yellen, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to chair the Fed after Bernanke steps down.

Shares of Macy's Inc bucked broader market declines to jump nearly 8 percent to $49.98 after the department store operator reported higher-than-expected third-quarter comparable sales.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 69.19 points, or 0.44 percent, at 15,681.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 3.32 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,764.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.25 points, or 0.08 percent, at 3,916.68.

Shares of Potbelly Corp jumped 16.5 percent to $31.48 a day after the sandwich chain reported results that beat Wall Street expectations.

U.S. Treasury prices rose on Wednesday ahead of an auction of $24 billion later in the day.

The U.S. Treasury will release a monthly account of the budget surplus or deficit at 2:00 p.m. EST.

In Europe, a faster-than-anticipated recovery in Britain's job market increased speculation that the European Central Bank's record low interest rate of 0.5 percent could be raised sooner than expected.