Worries about the economy have slowed a January stock rally.

After a month of impressive gains that brought the Dow within 200 points of a record, the markets have paused this week. Stocks started the day lower Wednesday after a report showed that the U.S. economy unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter. That decline extended after the Federal Reserve said that it would continue to try to boost growth through a bond-buying program designed to keep borrowing costs down.

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 44 points to close at 13,910.42, logging only its second decline in nine days. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.39 percent to 1,501.96, its biggest decline since Dec. 28. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.36 percent to 3,142.31.

The Fed said it would keep buying $85 billion of bonds a month.

"When you've spent this much money trying to prop up an economy and you still come up with a negative print, that's bad news," said Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading.

Still, stocks remain on track for a great January. The Dow Jones average has surged 6.2 percent since the start of the year, climbing close to 14,000 and within touching distance of its record level. -- AP