NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged lower in early afternoon trading Wednesday as investors waited to hear from the Federal Reserve on the fate of the central bank's bond-buying program.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 49 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,480 as of 12:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,701. The Nasdaq composite index fell five points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,740.
Investors have been waiting to hear the Fed's decision about its economic stimulus ever since Chairman Ben Bernanke said in June that the central bank was considering pulling back.
"This is probably the most widely anticipated Fed meeting in years," said Alec Young, global equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.
The Fed has been buying bonds since 2008 in an effort to keep interest rates low and keep the economy growing. Its most recent action started in September 2012, when the central bank decided to buy $40 billion a month in Treasurys and other securities. The Fed decided to increase that program to $85 billion a month in December.
While the market's reaction to Bernanke's comments in June was shock, investors have become more comfortable with the idea that the economy is strong enough to handle the Fed slowly stopping its bond purchases.
Major U.S. stock indexes are up roughly 4.5 percent this month alone, and the S&P 500 is within eight points of its all-time high of 1,709.67.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury note has been relatively stable, trading at a yield of 2.87 percent, after hitting 3 percent at the beginning of the month.
Investors expect the Fed will announce a slight reduction of around $10 billion a month in bond purchases, which influence long-term rates. Many economists think the Fed has done enough to stimulate the economy, and Fed officials have made various comments throughout the summer to prepare investors for a modest and gradual reduction.
But one piece of the stimulus that isn't expected to change is the benchmark short-term rate. The Fed is expected to keep that rate near zero.
In corporate news, Adobe Systems climbed $3.40, or 7 percent, to $51.54 after the company said it added more subscribers to its "Creative Cloud" software service than previously anticipated.
FedEx rose $3.07, or 3 percent, to $113.70 after the company reported a 7 percent increase in quarterly profit, helped by strong earnings in its ground-shipping business.