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Stocks turn volatile and end lower

Stocks are fluctuating Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, as

Stocks are fluctuating Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, as investors await news on whether Federal Reserve policymakers will raise a key interest rate. These traders were working on Sept. 15. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Stocks ended mostly lower Thursday after a volatile day that stayed that way even after the Federal Reserve policymakers decided not to raise interest rates.

At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index had lost 5.1 points, about 0.3 percent, to 1,990.2. The benchmark index gained 2.2 percent over the previous two days. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 65.21 points, about 0.4 percent, to 16,674.7. The Nasdaq composite added 4.7 points, about 0.1 percent, to nearly 4,894.

About the same time, the price of benchmark U.S. crude oil, which had been rising, slipped 9 cents to $46.96 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The bumpy trading Thursday came after the Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates low, citing weakness in the global economy and unsettled financial markets.

WHY BEHIND FED MOVE: Parts of the economy are still ailing despite the drop in unemployment. Pay growth has barely improved, for example. And millions hold jobs below their education levels or can't find full-time work. The global slowdown emanating from Europe and China has recently thrown financial markets into turmoil, a risk specifically raised by the Fed in its statement Thursday.

NEW BUILDING SLOWS: Builders broke ground on fewer houses and apartment complexes in August, a possible sign that the housing market may be leveling off after accelerating for much of the year. Housing starts last month fell 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.13 million homes, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Construction activity slowed sharply in the Northeast and Midwest last month, edged downward in the West and climbed in the South.

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