Eric Stein, co-director of global fixed income at Eaton Vance Management, noted the October statement downplayed concerns about global economic developments. "I certainly think it's a more hawkish statement than the market expected," he said.
"This means December is very much on the table for a rate hike if the data cooperates. It's all about the data, but given the weak data we've had the Fed doesn't seem overly concerned," he said.
In September, the Fed cited the potential impact from "recent global economic and financial developments" as a reason to hold off raising rates.
"The communication continues to go back and forth, and that's a little disappointing," said Todd Hedtke, senior vice president and chief investment officer at Allianz Investment Management, U.S.
"I tend to put a lot of weight on global developments, but (for the Fed) to drop it here entirely, I don't think the global situation has changed as much as they think it's changed. ... China and Europe are both still facing some significant headwinds."
Stocks opened mildly higher Wednesday and traded mostly higher as oil prices climbed.
Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, attributed some initial support to stocks from gains in European equities and Apple's stock, following earnings that beat expectations on both the top and bottom line. The iPhone maker's stock closed up 4.1 percent.
After the close Tuesday, Apple reported quarterly profit of $1.96 per share, 8 cents above estimates, with revenue slightly above forecasts. The company sold more than 48 million iPhones during the quarter and nearly doubled its China sales, but it did issue conservative current quarter revenue guidance.
Earnings season continues with PayPal, Yelp and Western Digital among those due to report after the close.
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In other corporate news, Hyatt Hotels is in talks to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts in a deal that is said to be as little as a week away, sources told CNBC. On Tuesday, shares of Starwood jumped on news at least three Chinese firms are competing to win government approval for a bid on the hotel operator.
Activist investor Carl Icahn on Wednesday disclosed a large stake in AIG and called for the company to break itself up.
Barclays appointed former investment banker Jes Staley as its new chief executive to start on December 1.
In a light day of economic reports, weekly mortgage applications fell 3.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The U.S. advance September goods trade deficit was $58.63 billion.
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Washington was also in focus as the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bipartisan pact charting a two-year budget truce.
U.S. House Republicans nominated Rep. Paul Ryan as their candidate for the chamber's new speaker.
Dan Farley, regional investment strategist for The Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank, said investors remain concerned about the political situation, the timing of a rate hike and the severity of slowdown in China.
"Until we get some clarity around those three things we think the market's going to be volatile," he said.