A quiet day on Wall Street left stock indexes little changed after minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy committee showed few signs that the central bank plans on making changes to its stimulus program. Trading volume continued to be light.
The minutes, from the Fed's meeting on March 15, confirmed that members of the central bank are split about whether it needs to tighten credit later this year to ward off inflation. All of the committee's members agreed that the economy is improving.
Companies that make basic materials rose as traders anticipated more price increases for commodities. Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. rose 2.8 percent, Newmont Mining Corp. rose 4.4 percent and Dow Chemical Co. rose 1.3 percent.
"I think the market is concerned that (Fed) Chairman (Ben) Bernanke doesn't share the same level of concern regarding inflation that it might wish him to, and that is leading to stronger commodity prices," said Howard Ward, the chief investment officer for GAMCO Investors.
Many investors have been more focused on the policies of the Federal Reserve rather than the threat of a government shutdown if Republicans and Democrats do not reach an agreement on federal spending levels. "There is a game of chicken going on in Washington right now to see who will move first," Ward said.
Stocks had edged lower in early trading, following most world markets, after China raised a key lending rate and the rating agency Moody's lowered Portugal's credit rating. A survey from the Institute for Supply Management reported growth at service companies last month but at a slower rate than analysts were expecting.
Technology companies climbed after Texas Instruments Inc. said it planned to buy National Semiconductor for $6.5 billion in cash. National Semiconductor soared 71 percent.
After falling more than $10 earlier in the day, Apple Inc. regained most of its losses. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. announced a rebalancing of the Nasdaq-100 Index next month that will cut Apple's weighting in the index from 20 percent to 12 percent. That will likely force some money managers to reduce their holdings.
Trading in the largest stocks of the Nasdaq index may be more volatile before the rebalancing takes effect, but will may make index funds that are based on the Nasdaq more appropriate for lay investors, said John DiBacco, global head of equity finance at UBS.
"When you buy an index fund you are hoping for diversification," he said. "If one name makes up a fifth of the index you aren't quite accomplishing what you hoped."
KB Home fell nearly 4 percent. The homebuilder reported a first-quarter loss of $1.49 a share, far more than the 25 cents analysts were expecting.
Rising shares narrowly outpaced falling shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 3.9 billion shares.