A two-day rally in the stock market came to an end Thursday afternoon when an account of the Federal Reserve's last meeting revealed a split between bank officials over how long the Fed should keep buying bonds to support the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index treaded water for much of the day, then slid into the red around 2 p.m., after the Fed released the minutes from its December meeting.
The Dow ended with a loss of 21.19 points at 13,391.36.
The S&P 500 lost 0.21 percent to 1,459.37 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.38 percent to 3,100.57.
The stock market opened on a weak note after retailers reported mixed holiday sales and as the prospect of a new budget battle in Congress loomed.
"It's natural to relax a bit after such a huge day as yesterday," said Lawrence Creatura, who manages a small-company fund at Federated Investors.
The Dow soared 308 points Wednesday, its largest point gain since December 2011. The rally was ignited after lawmakers passed a bill to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases called the "fiscal cliff." That deal gave the market a jump start into the new year. The Dow and the S&P 500 are already up more than 2 percent. -- AP