Stocks edge mostly lower ahead of Fed meeting

STEVE ROTHWELL AP Business Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks edged lower in early trading Tuesday as the Federal Reserve started a two-day meeting.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,782 in early trading. The Dow Jones industrial average was little changed at 15,885. The Nasdaq composite dropped 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,019. Stock indexes rose sharply on Monday.

JUMBO BUYBACK: Boeing gained $1.98, or 1.5 percent, to $136.74 after the plane maker increased its stock buyback program by $10 billion and raised its dividend 52 percent. 3M climbed $2.69, or 2.11 percent, to $131.09 after raising its dividend by 35 percent. The company also forecast solid earnings next year.

FED PULLBACK?: Good news on the U.S. economy this month, including a blockbuster jobs report and a budget deal in Washington, appeared to increase the likelihood that the Fed could pare back its huge bond-buying program as early as this week. Investors find out Wednesday, at the end of the Fed's last two-day policy meeting of 2013.

NEW FRONTIERS: Frontier Communications jumped 44 cents, or 10.2 percent, to $4.85 after it reached a deal to acquire AT&T's fixed-line business in Connecticut for about $2 billion.

FLAT PRICES: U.S. consumer prices remained flat in November, held down by falling gas prices. The consumer price index fell 0.1 percent in October.

ON DECK: The Fed will also release economic projections and hold a news conference on Wednesday. Several big U.S. companies are due to report quarterly earnings this week, including FedEx, Oracle Corp and Neiman Marcus.