Stocks Opened Lower Ahead of Fed Rate Decision

Stocks opened lower on Wednesday as investors were cautious about the direction the Federal Reserve would take to deal with renewed weakness in the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average lately was down 17.75 points, or 0.15 percent, at 12,172.26. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dipped 0.30 point, or 0.02 percent, at 1,295.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.05 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,685.21.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are still facing plenty of challenges as they try to keep a fragile expansion on track. A host of economic indicators have slowed in recent weeks and a sharp spike in gasoline prices earlier this year has made consumers and businesses more cautious about spending. The central bank, wrapping up a two-day meeting on Wednesday, is expected to acknowledge the recent soft patch but insist that growth should rebound in the second half of the year.

FedEx Corp. said Wednesday it overcame lofty diesel and jet fuel bills to post a 33 percent increase in earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter. FedEx earned $558 million, or $1.75 per share. That compares with $419 million, or $1.33 per share, in the same period last year. Revenue increased 12 percent to $10.55 billion.

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