NEW YORK, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks closed mixed after narrowly fluctuating trading Wednesday, as investors tried their best to digest closely-watched minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve 's latest policy meeting in December.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 68.20 points, or 0.41 percent, to 16,462.74. The S&P 500 inched down 0.39 point, or 0.02 percent, to 1,837.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 12.43 points, or 0.30 percent, to 4,165.61.
Wall Street added losses shortly after the release of the minutes, which indicated that the U.S. central bank may pick up its exit from its quantitative easing based on more optimistic assessment of the economy. It rebounded in the final half hour of the trading session.
Most meeting participants expressed greater confidence in the outlook for the U.S. economy and saw the "risks associated with their forecasts of real economic growth and the unemployment rate as more nearly balanced than earlier in the year," the minutes revealed.
The market was struggling for direction in the day, as investors gauged prospects over the Fed's tapering, after the Fed, following its December policy meeting, announced the first tapering of its 85-billion-U.S.-dollar per month massive asset purchases by 10 billion dollars starting in January.
The Fed's accommodative programs were the main driver of Wall Street's rally in 2013.
On the economic front, U.S. private-sector added 238,000 jobs last December, surpassing November as the strongest month for job growth in 2013, according to a report published by private payroll processor ADP. The fresh figure also beat analysts' expectations of an increase of 200,000.
"The increase in December payrolls was a high for the year, pointing to a strong employment report on Friday," said Jay Morelock, an economist at FTN Financial.
However, the major indices reacted little to the better-than- expected private jobs data, as investors viewed it mixed, taking into consideration the Fed's pledge that its tapering pace of monetary stimulus would be data dependent.
After the private jobs report, the market will be turning its focus to the U.S. Labor Department's December non-farm payroll report due out Friday.
On other markets, the U.S. dollar continued the upward trend against most major currencies after the Fed's minutes, which revealed that policymakers saw diminishing economic benefits from the quantitative easing and expressed concern about financial risks.
In late New York trading, the euro slipped to 1.3578 dollars from 1.3618 dollars of the previous session. The greenback bought 104.82 yen, higher than 104.48 yen of the previous session.
Oil prices fell as a government report showed bigger-than- expected increases in gasoline supplies in the United States. Light, sweet crude for February delivery dropped 1.34 dollars to settle at 92.33 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange extended losses to a third straight session on upbeat economic data. The most active gold contract for February delivery fell 4.1 dollars to 1225.5 dollars per ounce.