Stocks end higher as Fed minutes confirm inflation focus

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STORY: U.S. stocks ended higher in volatile trading on Wednesday, after minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting showed that while officials remained laser-focused on bringing down inflation, they agreed to slow the pace of interest rate hikes.

The Dow ended four tenths of a percent higher. The S&P 500 finished up three quarters of a percent, while the Nasdaq ended about seven tenths of a percent higher.

Minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting showed officials and Chair Jerome Powell would continue to increase interest rates to control inflation, but gradually to limit the risks to economic growth.

Lisa Erickson, senior vice president at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said the fact that the minutes showed no changes to the Fed's position may have eased some investors' concerns.

"Overall, really what we see here with the Fed minutes is, again, the same themes that were echoed in the December press conference. And so that really is giving the markets cause really just to see that, for now, the Fed is not really changing its stance with respect to monetary policy."

Shares of Microsoft slid more than 4% after UBS downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "buy" on concerns over slowing growth for its cloud business.

Shares of Amazon also fell after UBS cut its price target on the stock, citing the same potential softening demand for cloud services.

Shares of Apple and Tesla rebounded somewhat, rising 1% and 5% respectively, after sharp moves lower the day prior.

And shares of Salesforce rose, after the cloud-based software firm said it plans to cut jobs by 10% and close some offices.