U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday, with consumer staples lagging, as investors digested the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 12 points lower, with Home Depot contributing the most losses.
"It does feel like a calm before a storm as we head into the next Fed meeting," said Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners, pointing to recently weak economic data. "People are starting to talk about that, whether it's noise or is it a sign of something scary coming ahead."
The S&P 500 closed less than a point lower after briefly trading higher, with consumer staples falling around 1 percent.
"The logical person at this juncture can look at the data and say the Fed is not going to raise interest rates," said Adam Sarhan, CEO at Sarhan Capital. "What the market is asking the Fed is where is this hawkish data that supports a rate hike."
The Nasdaq composite set a new all-time intraday high of 5,287.61 and a record close of 5,283.93. The index also posted a four-day winning streak.
"I think the reason the Nasdaq is hitting all-time highs is because of this sector rotation we've seen recently," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
The Beige Book, an important indicator on the state of the U.S. economy and as such, is a critical tool for the Fed in making key decisions, showed the Fed sees moderate wage growth in the coming months.
Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said the comments in the Beige Book were not surprising. "The economic data certainly doesn't call for a rate hike but the fed funds rate should never have been this low in the 7th year of an economic expansion," he said in a note to clients.
"I think we get a better read of the U.S. economy and [the report] will be watched a bit more closely in the wake of the disappointing ISM and jobs report numbers," Wunderlich's Hogan said ahead of the Beige Book's release.
Market participants digested a very weak ISM services print for August on Tuesday, but stocks managed to close higher, with the Nasdaq posting new all-time high of 5,275.91 at the close.
Other economic data due Wednesday included the July read on the Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which showed employers posting 5.9 million job openings for that month.
"There's very little in terms of economic data, not just for today, but for the week, said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
Investors have closely payed attention to economic data as they gauge when the Fed will raise interest rates.
"It's more logical for the Fed to raise rates in September because there is a seven-week window for the market to correct itself, if needed," Schwab's Frederick said. "But if they wait until after the election and the market sells off, there is only a five-week window."
Market expectations for a September rate hike were 15 percent on Wednesday, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
"If they hike this year, I think it's going to be one-and-done," said Minh Trang, senior FX trader at Silicon Valley Bank.
U.S. stocks have continued to trade in a very tight range, with the S&P 500 posting its last 1 percent move on a closing basis back in July 8.
"I think the market is trying to determine which direction it wants to go, with the ECB and the Bank of Japan possibly adding more liquidity. I think the market generally wants go higher," said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth. "The Federal Reserve seems to be out of the picture, at least in the market's perspective."
In oil markets, U.S. crude settled 1.49 percent higher at $45.50 per barrel in choppy trade, despite waning hopes that the world's largest oil producers would rein in output.
U.S. Treasurys traded mixed , with the two-year note yield near 0.73 percent and the benchmark 10-year yield around 1.54 percent. The dollar rose against a basket of currencies, with the euro near $1.124 and the yen near 101.7.
In corporate news, Apple is scheduled to hold an event later on Wednesday, where the company unveiled its latest iPhone. Apple's stock rose 0.63 percent.
"One would have to think that's playing into the Nasdaq," said Adrian Day, CEO at Adrian Day Asset Management, " But ... I can't imagine this will be anything revolutionary."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 11.98 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 18,526.14, with Wal-Mart leading decliners and Caterpillar the top riser.
The fell 0.33 points, or 0.02 percent, to end at 2,186.15, with consumer staples leading four sectors lower and energy the top advancer.
The Nasdaq rose 8.02 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 5,283.93.
About nine stocks advanced for every five decliners at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 813.51 million and a composite volume of 3.251 billion at the close.
Gold futures for December delivery settled $4.80 lower at $1,349.20 per ounce.
On tap this week:
*Planner subject to change.
8:30 a.m. Initial claims
3:00 p.m. Consumer credit
7:45 a.m. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren
10:00 a.m. Wholesale