Stocks Closed Lower after Fed Minutes

U.S. stocks ended lower on Wednesday, driven by losses in the energy sector, after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed the central bank was “approaching” its first rate hike in nearly a decade. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 162.61 points, or 0.93%, to 17,348.73. The S&P 500 dropped 17.31 points, or 0.83%, to 2,079.61. The Nasdaq Composite was down 40.30 points, or 0.80%, to 5,019.05.

Federal Reserve officials widely agreed last month the economy was nearing the point where interest rates should move higher, but worried lagging inflation and a weak global economy posed too big a risk to commit to “liftoff” .The Federal Reserve’s goal to spur economic growth enough to generate stronger inflation will probably take longer to achieve.

U.S. crude oil slumped over 4 percent on Wednesday to hit a 6-1/2-year low and almost break below $40 per barrel. The front-month futures contract in U.S. crude, which expires on Thursday, settled down $1.82, or 4.3 percent, at $40.80 a barrel. It dropped as low as $40.46 during the session, its lowest since March 2009.

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