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Closing Update: Stocks Finish Little Changed After Fed Minutes Ease Worries Over Pre-Mature Rate Hike

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Stocks finished mixed Wednesday, recovering from earlier declines after minutes from the Jan. 27-28 Federal Reserve policy-setting meeting showed several members are reluctant to raise interest rates too quickly, citing global uncertainties and still-unsteady economic growth at home. Shares slumped heading out of the gate this morning after bearish data for January housing starts and factory activity. Energy stocks also labored following a drop in crude oil prices.

Shares began to firm this afternoon after minutes from the last Federal Open Markets Committee meeting said "many" panel members believe a premature rate hike would harm the U.S. recovery. The minutes also showed members largely disliked dropping "patient" from the Fed's post-meeting statement and were looking for additional guidance that would keep investors from over-reacting and markets on an even keel.

Most industry sectors in the S&P 500 scratched out small gains just today's close although a day-long slide for energy stocks today was enough to keep the broader market gauge just under its break-even mark. A decline for Exxon Mobil ( XOM ) after stock-ownership reports showed Berkshire Hathaway pared its stake in the energy giant during Q4 as crude oil prices swooned also kept the Dow Jones Industrial Average underwater. The The Nasdaq Composite index eked out its seventh gain in as many days helped by a late rebound for shares of health care and technology companies.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at the end-of-day:

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 17.73 (-0.10%) to 18,029.85

S&P 500 down 0.66 (-0.03%) to 2,099.68

Nasdaq Composite Index up 7.10 (+0.14%) to 4,906.36

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Hang Seng Index up 0.19%

Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.76%

FTSE 100 Index unchanged

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) CAPN, Still adding to yesterday's 37% rise that followed the company announcing the first commercial sales of its CoSense end-tidal carbon monoxide monitors and sampling kits.

(+) ANGI, Q4 EPS of $0.26 beats analyst consensus by $0.05 per share. Revenue rises 19.5% over year-ago levels to $82.2 mln, topping estimates by $1 mln. Guides FY15 revenue in-line with Street view.

(+) EGRX, Hits new record high, rising by double digits for a second day in a row after December quarter EPS of $0.39 beats analyst estimates by $0.10 per share. Revenue rises 1.8% to $5.6 mln, topping consenus view by $2.45 mln.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) VRNS, Sees Q1 adjusted net loss at least $0.04 per share wider than Street view although revenue outlook tops estimates. Projected FY15 non-GAAP net loss is at least $0.06 per share wider than Capital IQ consensus.

(-) FOSL, Q4 net income of $3.00 per share misses by $0.07 per share. Revenue climbs 0.3% to $1.06 bln, trailing estimates by $60 mln. Currency translation lowered Q4 EPS by $0.23 per share and cut revenue by $32.5 mln.

(-) MDAS, FY15 outlook of earnings in a range of $1.13 to $1.23 a share lag Street view by at least $0.22 per share. Q4 EPS of $0.39 matches estimates while revenue grows 16.3% to $198.24 mln, beating expectations by nearly $3 mln.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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