Wednesday, February 20 15:07:23
U.S. stocks were little changed today after housing and inflation data pointed to a continuation of modest economic improvement and ahead of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's January meeting later in the session.
Groundbreaking to build new U.S. homes fell 8.5 percent in January but new permits for construction rose to a 4 1/2-year high while producer prices rose in January for the first time in four months.
The data should enable the Fed to maintain its easy monetary policy in its efforts to stimulate the economy.
Later in the session, investors will look to the minutes from the Fed's January meeting for any indication as to how long the current monetary policy will remain in effect.
"It's hard in any given data point to take a strong conclusion that we are moving dramatically forward, but over time, clearly things are getting better," said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts.
Lutts described an economy that was addicted to stimulus.
"The bottom line is the economy is on heroin today and we will at one time move to a diluted form of heroin, but it's very important for people to remember we are still on an unbelievably aggressive, never-seen-before accommodative policy and this economy is going to improve."
The S&P 500 is up more than 7 percent for the year, fueled by legislators' ability to sidestep an automatic implementation of spending cuts on tax hikes on Jan. 1, better-than-expected corporate earnings and modestly improving economic data that has been tepid enough for the Fed to maintain its stimulus policy.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 5.99 points, or 0.04 percent, to 14,029.68. The Standard and Poor's 500 Index lost 2.60 points, or 0.17 percent, to 1,528.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 3.12 points, or 0.10 percent, to 3,210.48. Reuters