U.S. stocks slipped Wednesday as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments were viewed as a bit more hawkish, but reports suggesting more improvement in the economy curbed losses.
The three major U.S. stock indexes ended lower, snapping a four-day streak of gains. Still, the broader market, as measured by the S&P 500-stock index, saw its best two-month start to a year since 1991, CNBC reports.
Bernanke, in his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Wednesday morning, gave a mixed view of the U.S. economy, and did nothing to support hopes by some in the financial markets that more monetary stimulus may be coming
"It felt as if there's been improvement ... (but) it certainly didn't sound like they were getting ready to tighten," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer of North Star Investment Management Corp. in Chicago.
Among reports helping to limit losses, the Fed said in its Beige Book report that the U.S. economy expanded modestly in January and through mid-February.
Traders also booked some profits after the three major U.S. stock indexes hit multi-year highs earlier in the session on stronger-than-expected economic data. The Nasdaq topped 3,000 for the first time since mid-December 2000.
Analysts warned that the year's rally has come on light volume, noting that hitting new highs could spark selling on technical triggers.
Other economic data showed the U.S. economy grew slightly faster than initially thought in the fourth quarter while the pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest picked up in February to its highest level in 10 months.