US stocks finished lower on Wednesday as Federal Reserve minutes and better-than-estimated payrolls data fuelled concern stimulus cuts may be accelerated.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 68 points or 0.41%, to end at 16,463. The S&P 500 closed flat to finish at 1,837. The Nasdaq Composite rose 12 points or 0.30%, to close at 4,166.
According to Fed minutes from 17-18 December meeting, after which the US central bank announced its decision to begin scaling back its monthly bond purchases, Fed officials saw diminishing economic benefits from the programme.
Earlier in the session, a report by ADP showed US private-sector employers added 238,000 jobs in December, more than expected.
In corporate news, Microsoft (MSFT.O) shares slid 1.8% as the software giant moves closer to naming a new chief executive officer, sources said. It lost a front-runner candidate on Tuesday when Ford's CEO Alan Mulally said he would not be going to Microsoft. Ford's stock gained 1%.
Twitter Inc. fell 3.5%, falling for a third day, amid an analyst downgrade. Micron Technology Inc. jumped 9.9% after reporting quarterly revenue that topped estimates.
JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) plunged 10% after the department store chain said on Wednesday that it was "pleased" with its holiday season sales without giving specific results, triggering speculation that the retailer's sales may have declined last month.
Apollo Education Group Inc (APOL.O) shares jumped 14.2% after the owner of the University of Phoenix reported a quarterly profit well ahead of Wall Street expectations.
In deal news, Forest Laboratories (FRX.N) agreed to buy privately held specialty pharmaceutical company Aptalis Holdings Inc for about $2.9 billion. Forest Labs' stock surged 17.9% and ranked as the S&P 500's biggest gainer.
NuPathe Inc (PATH.O) rocketed 35.6% after the company said it received a buyout offer from Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA)(TEVA.N) for $114 million plus milestone payments related to NuPathe's migraine treatment. Teva's US-listed shares shed 0.4%.
In Asia, shares declined on Thursday ahead of Chinese inflation data and after Fed minutes showed officials saw diminishing benefits from the central bank’s bond-buying.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.5% to 139 as of 11:26 a.m. in Tokyo. Japan’s Topix (TPX) index fell 0.7% and South Korea’s Kospi index slipped 0.1% as the central bank left its key interest rate unchanged. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.2%, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.7%. Singapore’s Straits Times Index advanced 0.6% and Taiwan’s Taiex index was little changed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares traded in the city both fell 0.2%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1%.