US close: Stocks slump on Fed minutes

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LONDON (ShareCast) - - Stocks bounce back from previous day's weakness
- Gold breaks through support at 1,600/oz.

Dow Jones Industrials: 0.40%
Nasdaq Comp.: 0.43%
S&P 500: 0.37%

US stocks fell sharply on Wednesday after minutes were released from the most recent meeting of policymakers at the Federal Reserve.

Market drivers

Polarized opinions as to the effectiveness of the bank's existing strategy of buying bonds until the nation's unemployment rate had contracted appeared to be in force. The rate of unemployment in the US is close to 8% at present.

Meanwhile, the Dow experienced its second worst fall in 2013 while slumping stocks pushed the S&P 500 Index down 1.2%, marking the biggest daily fall that the index had seen since the middle of November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) .

Data published by the US Department of Labor showed a rise in wholesale costs in January with the influential Producer Price Index having rising to a seasonally adjusted 0.2%.

The US Commerce Department reported that permits for future home building issued in January rose to a 4.5-year high. However, housing starts dropped 8.5% in January to a 890,000-unit annual rate, pulled down by a sharp drop in the volatile, multi-family unit category.

Another hot topic with the potential to drive markets over the coming weeks was gold, the commodity - traditionally seen as a nation's reserve currency - has been sinking in value.

Gold futures dropped below $1,600, prompting speculation as to whether the US benchmark interest rate might change in the coming months. The rate has been static at 0.50% for more than three years as the country attempts to recover from the deep fallout of the global financial crisis.

Company News Shares in Tesla Motors (NasdaqGS: TSLA - news) slipped on Wednesday evening after the electric car maker's quarterly adjusted loss was below some analysts' forecasts.

Joy Global (NYSE: JOY - news) 's shares rose by 6.1% - representing the biggest gain on the S&P 500 Index - while shares in Chelsea Therapeutics International (NasdaqCM: CHTP - news) more than doubled on news indicating that the company could be expecting to resubmit a blood pressure drug application.

Garmin Ltd (NasdaqGS: GRMN - news) 's shares dropped 9.5%, after the company reported that its fourth-quarter earnings fell 22% with revenue also declining.

Front month West Texas crude futures settled down 2.52% at the $94.74 a barrel mark.

10-year US Treasury yields closed the day flat at 2.03%.

MF