Stocks decline as investors weigh economic news

Associated Press
In this Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, photo, specialist James Sciulli works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. World stock markets put in a patchy performance Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013, with Japan suffering a sharp fall, as investors continued to worry the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon start reducing its monetary stimulus. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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In this Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, photo, specialist James Sciulli works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. World stock markets put in a patchy performance Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013, with Japan suffering a sharp fall, as investors continued to worry the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon start reducing its monetary stimulus. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are ending mostly lower as investors weigh conflicting economic reports and assess the outlook for Federal Reserve stimulus.

Major U.S. indexes moved between gains and losses before ending lower Wednesday.

Conflicting news about the economy left investors unsure about when the Fed will reduce its monthly bond purchases, which have been supporting financial markets. The Fed's next meeting is in two weeks.

The latest bout of investor anxiety came ahead of the government's closely watched employment report due out on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 15,889.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,792. The Nasdaq composite was flat at 4,038.

Sears slumped after the CEO cut his stake in the company.

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