Stocks end flat following Fed comments

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NEW YORK -- Stocks finished flat Thursday after the Federal Reserve offered a cautious reading on inflation but said the economy appeared to be growing at a "moderate" pace.

The central bank, which stood pat on short-term interest rates as had been widely expected, offered investors a relatively unchanged assessment of the economy, saying the risk that inflation will fail to moderate remains its primary concern.

Stocks bounced around after the Fed said recent readings on inflation excluding energy and food prices had indicated signs of easing but added that prices had yet to show pronounced signals of easing.

"They took a middle-of-the-road approach. The Fed said some encouraging things about the future growth rate of the economy," said John Miller, head of fund management for Nuveen Asset Management. "They could have been more negative or more concerned about the meltdown in subprime markets or the potential for housing weakness to spread into consumer spending. The changes in the statement didn't indicate any concerns about those recent events."

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.45, or 0.04%, to 13,422.28.

Broader stock indicators finished mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.63, or 0.04%, to 1,505.71, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 3.02, or 0.12%, to 2,608.37.
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