Stock Edged Lower ahead of Fed Rate Decision

U.S. stocks opened lower on Wednesday as investors remained cautious before a key Federal Reserve policy statement due later in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately edged down 1.61 points, or 0.01%, to 17,249.92. The S&P 500 was up 0.96 points, or 0.05%, to2,016.89. The Nasdaq Composite added 6.35 points, or 0.13%, to 4,735.01.

Factory production rose in February for a second month, boosted by demand for business equipment and indicating U.S. manufacturing may be starting to stabilize. The 0.2 percent increase in output followed a 0.5 percent gain in January, data from the Federal Reserve showed Wednesday.

Construction of new homes rose in February to the highest level in five months, but applications for new construction were weak for a third month. Housing starts rose 5.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.18 million units, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

Oil prices bounced after OPEC sources said oil producers, including Gulf OPEC members, support holding talks next month on freezing output even if Iran won’t take part. U.S. crude CLc1 gained 2 percent to $37.09 a barrel, while Brent LCOc1 rose 1.9 percent to $39.48, lifting resources stocks. Shares in BP (BP.L) were up nearly 2 percent.

Peabody Energy, hurt by weak demand for coal, says it didn’t have the cash to pay a debt payment due this week and warned that it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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