Stocks logged another decline in choppy trading Wednesday following the Fed's meeting minutes and after conflicting reports suggesting the ECB could halt monetary operations to certain Greek banks, reigniting jitters over the debt-ridden nation.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 33.45 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 12,598.55, led by Alcoa and BofA . The Dow has closed lower 10 times out of the past 11 sessions. GE led the blue-chip gainers.
The S&P 500 fell 5.86 points, or 0.44 percent, to finish at 1,324.80. The Nasdaq declined 19.72 points, or 0.68 percent, to end at 2,874.04. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, closed above 22.
Among the key S&P sectors, financials led the laggards, while consumer staples eked out a small gain.
“All the economic reports have been good—things are trending in the right direction—but it’s not good enough to trump what’s going on in Europe,” said Alan Valdes, director of floor operations and VP of trading at DME Securities. “The markets trade in a 24/7 news cycle and the minute news comes out, we move on it…all the uncertainty that drove the market last year are still here.”
Stocks initially opened higher after German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated to CNBC that Germany wants Greece to stay in the euro, but conflicting news that the ECB has halted monetary policy operations to certain Greek banks spooked markets. Shortly after, a different headlinesaid the central bank is only "considering freezing" assets unless the government speeds up the process of recapitalizing the lenders.
Earlier this week, Greece's leaders failed to reach an agreementon a coalition government and President Karolos Papoulias said Greek depositors withdrew 700 million euros from the nation's local banks recently. The country temporarily put a senior judge in charge of an emergency government to eventually lead the nation to new elections on June 17.
Meanwhile, "a couple" of Fed policymakers were in favor of further quantitative easingif the economy falters, according to the central bank's latest meeting minutes. Members also expressed concern over the ongoing crisis in Europe and the potential downside risks from contractionary U.S. fiscal policy.
On the economic front, housing starts rose more than expected in April, gaining 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000 units. And industrial production grew at its fastest growth in over a year, according to the Federal Reserve.
GE rallied after the company's finance arm said it will resume its quarterly dividend to the parent company and pay the conglomerate a $4.5 billion special dividend this year. GE is the minority-owner of NBCUniversal.
Among earnings, Target gained after the retailer
JC Penney tumbled sharply after the retailer posted a loss that widely missed Wall Street expectations. At least two brokerages cut their price target on the firm. And Abercrombie & Fitch also slumped after the teen-apparel retailer reported a sharp fall in earnings and a decline in same-store sales, hurt by weak sales in Europe.
Meanwhile, Deere posted earnings that topped estimatesand boosted its full-year guidance. Still, shares were trading slightly lower.
Victoria's Secret parent Limited Brands is schedule to report earnings after the close.
Facebook said it will increase the size of its IPO by 25 percent and could raise as much as $16 billion as strong investor demand for a share of the social network trumps debate about the company's long-term potential to make money.
Meanwhile, General Motors said it plans to stop advertising on Facebook, saying the ads had little impact on consumers.
And in the ongoing saga surrounding the $2 billion loss announced by JPMorgan, the FBI announced it had opened an inquiry stepping up pressure on the bank after key U.S. agencies said they were looking into high-risk trades that first drew regulators' attention last month. Other large financials including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup were also trading lower.
BHP Billiton said it expects commodity markets to cool further and that investors have lost confidence in the longer-term health of the global economy.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Philadelphia Fed survey, e-commerce retail sales, leading indicators, Facebook pricing, Home Depot shareholders mtg, Intel shareholders mtg; Earnings from Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, Ross Stores, Aeropostale, Gap, Marvell Tech
FRIDAY: Facebook begins trading, JCPenney shareholders mtg, G8 summit begins; Earnings from Ann
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