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MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Cautious Ahead Of Fed

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks fell Wednesday, with the S&P 500 flirting with a fifth down session, as Wall Street looked to minutes from last month's Federal Reserve meeting for hints of more stimulus. "It's all about the Fed minutes today and whether or not we see more Fed members tilting towards quantitative easing, or another round of stimulus," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. The central bank is slated to release the minutes of its June meeting at 2 p.m. Eastern. Last month the Fed reiterated that the nation's economic climate would likely have it maintaining its benchmark interest rate near zero until at least late 2014. "I'd say for investors the Fed is largely irrelevant, as what is going on in U.S. and around the world is a fiscal and not a monetary problem. It has to come from politicians, Congress and the president, and that's true globally. And so the Fed will be in the news today, and for a trader that has impact," said Gary M. Flam, portfolio manager at Bel Air Investment Advisors, drawing a distinction between investing for the longer term versus day trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 39.40 points, or 0.3%, to 12,613.72, with 20 of its 30 components tallying losses. The S&P 500 (SPX) dropped almost 1.34 point, or 0.1%, to 1,340.13, with consumer discretionary hardest hit and energy the best performer among the index's 10 sectors. Best Buy Co. (BBY) slid 5.5% after appliance and electronics retailer HHGregg Inc. (HGG) reduced its forecasts. "The earnings season is going to keep this market on edge, and of course the ongoing situation in euro land. We're disappointed by the fact the German high court pushed back the debate on the constitutionality of the stability funds -- that caused a little bit of anxiety in the European markets, although Spain's taking some hard measures is actually a positive," Cardillo said. The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) shed 17.19 points, or 0.6%, to 2,885.14. Advancers and decliners ran near even on the New York Stock Exchange, where 213 million shares traded as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern. "The fact that we have light volume is a negative in the sense [that] we'll have larger gyrations, but, when you size it up, we're stuck in a trading range of 2% to 4% over the next several weeks," said Cardillo.

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