New York Report: Fed minutes drive Wall St into reverse

US stocks fell yesterday after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting said the central bank could begin to scale back its stimulus program at one of its next few meetings.

While Fed officials said such a move would happen only if economic conditions warranted it, some analysts said the minutes suggested the central bank may be getting closer to reducing its bond-buying program.

Stocks reversed course after the Fed minutes, with all three major US stock indexes trading slightly higher just before the release. The S&P 500’s decline was fairly broad-based, with nine of the 10 index sectors down. At the same time, bond yields added to gains.

The Fed’s continued stimulus has largely driven the US stock market’s rally this year. The S&P 500 has climbed 25 per cent so far this year.

The S&P utilities index, down 1.2 per cent, and the S&P materials index, down 0.8 per cent, ranked among the S&P 500’s worst-performing sectors during the session.

Among the S&P 500’s biggest percentage decliners, home improvement chain Lowe’s shares slid 6.2 per cent to $47.33 after the retailer reported slightly lower-than-expected quarterly earnings. Lowe's also gave a disappointing outlook for the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 66.21 points, or 0.41 per cent, to end at 15,900.82. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 6.50 points, or 0.36 percent, to finish at 1,781.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 10.28 points, or 0.26 per cent, to close at 3,921.27.