New York - US stocks were little changed on Wednesday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 near record highs, ahead of a policy decision by the Federal Reserve later in the day.
The US central bank, which announces its decision at 2:00 p.m. EDT (20:00 SA time), is expected to maintain its massive bond-buying campaign, and may indicate that its stimulus measures will be extended into 2014 amid softer readings on the US economy.
“The Fed is likely to continue to stimulate the economy into next year but since the market is overbought at this point, any surprise from the Fed could temporarily knock the wind out of this rally,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
The Fed has held interest rates near zero since late 2008 and has quadrupled the size of its balance sheet to more than $3.7 trillion through three rounds of bond buying.
The purchases, aimed at holding down longer-term borrowing costs, have helped prop up the economy and equity market for much of the year.
Wall Street barely reacted to the ADP National Employment Report released earlier Wednesday showing US private-sector employers added 130,000 jobs in October, fewer than economists expected.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 5.52 points, or 0.04 percent, at 15,685.87.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.37 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,771.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 2.93 points, or 0.07 percent, at 3,949.49.
On Tuesday, the Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs after economic data supported views that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus intact for several months. Tuesday's rally brought the S&P 500's gain this year to 24.2 percent.
In another busy day of earnings, shares of General Motors Co rose 2.2 percent to $36.87 after the No.1 US automaker reported better-than-expected quarterly profit due to strength in its core North American market and a smaller-than-anticipated loss in Europe.
Shares of Yelp Inc fell more than 6 percent to $64.89 a day after the business-search service firm reported a wider third-quarter loss.
Western Union shares slumped nearly 17 percent to $16.01 after the world's largest money-transfer company reported a 20 percent drop in third-quarter profit, hurt by lower revenue from its consumer business and higher expenses.
Other companies due to report Wednesday include Visa, Starbucks, MetLife and Kraft.
Corporate results have been sturdy so far in this earnings season, during which 296 companies, representing 66 percent of S&P 500's market capitalisation, have reported.
“All of the 10 sectors have beaten their earnings-per-share expectations and the aggregate earnings surprise is 4.5 percent,” said Jonathan Golub, chief US market strategist at RBC Capital Markets in New York. - Reuters