Jan. 3 - U.S. stocks ended a volatile session mostly flat as investors digested comments from Federal Reserve officials that raised questions about how quickly the central bank will end its stimulus program. Rhonda Schaffler reports.
U.S. stocks ended a volatile session mostly flat on Friday after comments from Federal Reserve officials that raised questions about how quickly the central bank will end its stimulus program. The Fed will start tapering this month, reducing its bond buying by $10 billion to $75 billion per month. It cited a stronger job market and economic growth. Fed's Chairman Ben Bernanke. (SOUNDBITE) BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "The FOMC's decision to modestly reduce the pace of asset purchases at its December meeting did not indicate any diminution of its commitment to maintain a highly accommodative monetary policy for as long as needed." And Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said the Central Bank faces "immense" challenges now that it has reduced bond-buying, and needs to be aware of a rapid rise in future inflation. Volume on Wall Street was light after a big snowstorm hit the Northeast. For the week, the Dow fell less than 0.1 percent while both the S&P and Nasdaq lost 0.6 percent. The top four automakers in the U.S. - GM, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler - all missed sales expectations in December. But 2013 will still easily be the best year for the industry since before the recession. The auto sales are expected to finish near 15.6 million vehicles - the best sales year since 2007. Shares of Sprint were down after brokerage Stifel Nicolaus downgraded its stock to "sell" from "hold," saying that getting an approval to take a majority stake in T-Mobile US was an "uphill battle in Washington in the near-term." Rite Aid was up after it reported a 3 percent rise in same-store sales in December. European stocks rose on Friday, recouping some steep losses suffered in the first session of the year.