NEW YORK: US stocks piled up losses Wednesday after Federal Reserve minutes showed divisions over asset purchases, with some officials suggesting to wind them down before the jobs market picks up.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 108.13 points (0.77 percent) at 13,927.54.
The S&P 500-stock index fell 18.99 points (1.24 percent) to 1,511.95 and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite dropped 49.18 points (1.53 percent) to 3,164.41, dragged down by heavyweight Apple, off 2.4 percent.
After opening mostly lower amid mixed housing and wholesale inflation data, the indexes hit fresh session lows after the Fed released the minutes of the January 29-30 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.
A "number" of participants said that an ongoing evaluation of the US$85 billion per month asset purchases "might well lead the committee to taper or end its purchases before it judged that a substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market had occurred," the minutes said.
Paul Edelstein of IHS Global Insight said in a research note that "if markets do not expect the Fed to stay the course, then expectations for economic growth and inflation will stay depressed and demand for safe assets (cash and government securities) will remain high."
Office Depot and OfficeMax meanwhile confirmed their merger after a premature announcement of the news.
The all-stock merger would create an US$18 billion office supplies retailer. Office Depot shares slumped 16.7 percent and OfficeMax shed 7.0 percent.
Hotel chain Marriott fell 2.7 percent after posting quarterly results that missed expectations.
Luxury home builder Toll Brothers also suffered from disappointing earnings, losing 9.1 percent.
Dell, which reported a 32 percent profit fall in 2012 that was nevertheless slightly better than expected, rose 0.2 percent.
Yahoo! fell 1.7 percent after unveiling a new homepage.
Sony slid 1.2 percent ahead of its PlayStation 4 news conference. -- AFP