NEW YORK — Stocks edged lower in early trading on Wall Street Wednesday as investors waited for word from the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. central bank will release its latest policy update at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will speak at a press conference thirty minutes later.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion of bonds a month to support an economy that is still struggling to recover following the Great Recession. Comments by Bernanke last month suggesting the central bank may soon ease that support unsettled investors and caused this year's rally in stocks to stall.
"All eyes are on Bernanke and markets are being held hostage until he speaks," said Joseph Tanious, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 15,289 in the first half hour of trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,648. The Nasdaq composite fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,480.
Bernanke is unlikely to give investors any greater clarity as to when the Fed will start to pull back on its stimulus, Tanious said. Instead, he expects the Fed chairman to reaffirm the bank's view that the U.S. economy is slowly improving and that it will consider reducing the stimulus at some point this year.
While stocks may decline in the short term after Wednesday's announcement, they should revive over coming months as investors start to focus on the outlook for the economy and company earnings.
"Once we get past Bernanke's testimony today, and once we're past the knee-jerk reaction, whatever it may be, I suspect the markets (to) head higher," said Tanious.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from late Tuesday at 2.19 percent.
In commodities trading, the price of oil was little changed at $98.67 a barrel. The price of gold dropped $3.80, or 0.3 percent, to $1,371 an ounce. The dollar edged lower against the euro and the Japanese yen.
Among stocks making big moves:
— Adobe jumped $2.72, or 6.3 percent, to $46.08 after the software maker said that its Creative Cloud subscriptions continued to climb in its fiscal second quarter.
— Sprint Nextel fell 24 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $7.08 after satellite TV operator Dish Network said late Tuesday that it wouldn't submit a revised bid for the wireless carrier.