New York markets also closed in the red after the latest minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting showed that policymakers expressed broad support for the Fed’s plan to buy bonds to support the U.S. economy.
But there was a split among its members over how long to continue the bond purchases. Some of its 12 voting members thought they would continue through this year, while others thought they should be slowed or stopped before the end of 2013.
Those governors were concerned that the continued bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, would destabilize the economy.
The Dow Jones industrials closed down 21.19 points to 13,391.36.
The Nasdaq composite index slipped 11.69 points to 3,100.57 and the S&P 500 was down 3.05 points to 1,459.37.
Indexes had been largely little changed until the release of the Fed minutes mid-afternoon, holding onto solid gains racked up in a relief rally Wednesday sparked by a last-minute deal to avert big tax hikes and spending cuts in the United States.
For one thing, while the New Year’s Eve deal settled tax rates it only postponed automatic spending cuts to defence and domestic programs for two months. And it didn’t include any significant deficit-cutting agreement, meaning the country still doesn’t have a long-term plan on how to curb spending.
Payroll firm ADP reported that the U.S. private sector created 215,000 jobs last month. Economists forecast that Friday’s government report would show the American economy added 150,000 jobs in December.
February bullion lost $ 14.20 to $ 1,674.60 (U.S.) an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, pushing the gold sector down about 3.5 per cent. Goldcorp Inc. faded $ 1.73 to $ 35.22 (Canadinan) while Iamgold Corp. lost 63 cents to $ 11.
The base metals sector was off 1.08 per cent with March copper down two cents at $ 3.72 (U.S.) a pound. Thompson Creek Metals fell 23 cents to $ 4.07 (Canadian) while Taseko Mines slipped 11 cents to $ 3.07.
The consumer staples sector declined 0.76 per cent with drugstore chain Jean Coutu Group down 26 cents to $ 14.50.
The energy sector was slightly higher as the February crude contract shed 20 cents to $ 92.92 (U.S.) a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources gained 33 cents to $ 29.54 (Canadian) while Talisman Energy climbed 16 cents to $ 11.66.
Revenue in stores open at least one year rose 4.1 in December at Macy’s. But the figure grew less than the company expected during the combined two-month November and December period, the key holiday shopping months, and Macy’s lowered its fourth-quarter guidance.