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Stocks stay lower as Fed news nears

Stocks stay lower as Fed news nears

Stocks are lower ahead of the 2 p.m. ET release of minutes from last month’s Fed meeting. As of 1:09 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 are each down about 0.3%. The Nasdaq composite is 0.1% lower. Debt-strapped Greece, which has commanded investors’ attention the past several days, is preparing to present its creditors in the 19-country eurozone with an official proposal aimed at saving bailout talks from collapse.nasdaq-stock-market

In domestic news affecting the economy, the producer price index — one measure of inflation — decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.8% in January, pulled down by a huge, 24% drop in gasoline prices. Housing starts slipped 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million last month, the Commerce Department says. Starts on single-family houses plummeted 6.7% from the previous month.

Asian stocks advanced Wednesday on investor optimism ahead of a European Central Bank meeting on bailout conditions for Greece, though trading was quiet as many markets were shut for the Lunar New Year. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1% to close at 18,199.17 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.2%. European shares are mostly up amid the closer-to-home news of Greece’s financial saga. Greek shares climbed 1.1% on the news, after days of losses, and the eurozone’s Euro Stoxx 50 index rose 0.8%.

Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said the Greek plan would involve extending the 240 billion euro ($272 billion) international loan agreement that has kept the country afloat since it nearly went bankrupt in 2010 — but, apparently, without the austerity strings attached. It is unclear whether the plan would be acceptable for Greece’s creditors. Greece is hoping to reach a last minute deal for a loan extension to avoid a potentially disastrous exit from the shared European currency. Its bailout program ends Feb. 28.