U.S. stocks ended mixed Wednesday after a late-session profit taking almost wiped off a 156-point rally in the Dow average that was fueled by the Fed’s encouraging assessment of the economy and its decision to keep interest rates low for an extended period.  The optimism was short-lived as investors appeared jittery ahead of the October jobs report on Friday. Fresh concerns over bank earnings resurfaced after the House of Representatives passed a bill curbing credit card rate increases.

After the house vote, financials slumped 1.5% and led the decliners among the S&P 500 industry groups.  Analyst Meredith Whitney noted the biggest U.S. banks may face declining values on home-loan bonds with government backing as the Fed moves towards ending its $1.25 trillion purchase program.  Whitney said bank earnings are far from approaching “normalcy,” and will reflect regulatory changes for an extended period.  JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) fell 1.2% to $42.21 and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) retreated 3.1% to $26.82.  Citigroup (NYSE:C) slipped 1.7% to $3.97.

On Wednesday, the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average closed up 30.23 points, or 0.31%, at 9,802.14.  The broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index edged was up 1.09 points, or 0.10%, at 1,046.50.  The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the day almost unchanged.  On the New York Stock Exchange, eight stocks advanced for every seven that declined as volume slowed to 1.35 billion shares.

Meanwhile, gold prices continues their upward run and hit an intraday record high of $1098.50, before giving up most of that gain to settle at $1087.30.  The US dollar retreated 0.5% against a basket of currencies.

Yesterday, investors breathed a sigh of relief after the Fed’s announcement to keep interest rates near historically low levels for an extended period.  The Fed, in its policy assessment, noted the economic activity was likely to remain weak for some time and ruled out any plans of a premature exit.  As it continued with its highly accommodative monetary stance, the Fed offered a reminder that the current recovery still lacks strength to be self-supportive.

Healthcare shares Wednesday rose 1% and led the gainers within the S&P500 industry sectors as Republican gubernatorial wins were seen as votes against President Obama’s healthcare initiative, likely to result in further delays to changes to the healthcare program. The Senate unanimously voted to extend jobless benefits and broaden homebuyer tax breaks, with the Congress expected to vote before week’s end. Helped by the news housing shares finished higher, with Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) up 3.5%, Lennar (NYSE:LEN) up 3.4%, and DR Horton (NYSE:DHI) adding 3.2%.

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