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US stocks pare losses after Fed minutes
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NEW YORK (AP) — Declines in the U.S. stock market eased Wednesday afternoon after minutes from the Federal Reserve's January meeting showed that policy makers do not appear ready to raise interest rates anytime soon.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,098 as of 2:13 p.m. Eastern time. The index closed at an all-time high of 2,100 on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average was off 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,034. The Nasdaq composite was down a point to 4,898.

Energy stocks weighed on markets from the start of trading. The price of oil fell on speculation that a recent rally in the crude was excessive.

FED REACTION: The minutes of the Fed's revealed that officials were concerned about inflation and lingering problems in the labor market. That gave a boost to bond markets, pushing the price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note higher.

Investors are expecting the Fed to raise rates between June and September. The Fed's benchmark interest rate has been at a record low near zero since December 2008.

ENERGY: Oil prices remained volatile with the recent rally appearing to flag. Benchmark U.S. crude, which had been on the rise last week, was down $1.19 at $52.34 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.32 to $61.20 a barrel.

The price of oil has jumped 16 percent since bottoming out at the end of January after a seven-month slump.

THE QUOTE: The S&P 500 has bounced back after a weak start to the year, as a rebound in the price of oil has boosted energy stocks and driven the index back to an all-time high. Strong reports on hiring and company earnings have also encouraged investors. The gains have come, even as a strengthening dollar has curbed overseas earnings for companies in the index.

"Investors are starting to look beyond oil and the currency strength and they are looking at the underlying economy as a positive," said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy with Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

OVERALL PICTURE: Most companies in the S&P 500 index have now reported their results for the fourth quarter, and earnings are forecast to climb by 7.6 percent after all the results are in, according to S&P Capital IQ. That compares with growth of 9.2 percent in the third quarter and a rate of 4.9 percent in the same period a year earlier.

EARNINGS WATCH: Shares of Fossil Group plunged as the company's fourth-quarter results and outlook disappointed investors. The company is predicting a negative impact from gains in the dollar and restructuring costs. The stock dropped $18.20, or 18.3 percent, to $81.15.

GREECE: The Greek government is set to ask its European creditors to extend a 240 billion-euro international loan agreement — but without the deep spending cuts and income reductions from the country's austerity program. Greece's bailout program expires after Feb. 28 and there are worries that a failure to extend it may force the country out of the euro, and potentially damage the global economy. Investors are optimistic, however, that Greece will reach a compromise with its creditors.

EUROPE'S DAY: The main stock market in Athens was up 1.1 percent, while Germany's DAX rose 0.6 percent. The CAC-40 in France was 1 percent higher.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: In government bond trading, prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.07 percent from 2.14 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar gained against the euro, pushing the currency down to $1.13. The U.S. currency was little changed against the Japanese yen.