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U.S. stocks move lower ahead of Fed minutes

Major U.S. stock indexes moved lower in morning trading Wednesday, pulling the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index from their record highs. The decline came as investors reviewed several retailers' quarterly earnings ahead of the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,046 as of 11:55 a.m. ET. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,669. The Nasdaq composite shed 30 points, or about 0.6 percent, to 4,672.

Traders have their eye on the Fed, which is due to publish minutes from its October policy meeting later in the day. Investors will look for insight on when the central bank might start to raise interest rates. The labor market continues to improve but the global economic backdrop remains a concern.

Eight of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 declined, with telecommunications stocks falling the most. Consumer staples managed the biggest gain. Biopharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt led the index's decliners, sliding $4.28, or 4.8 percent, to $84.50.

Lowe's reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings, reaping gains from a nascent recovery in the housing market. The home improvement retailer also raised its full-year forecast. The stock rose $3.35, or 5.7 percent, to $61.88.

Target reported a 3.1 percent gain in third-quarter profit as the retailer rebounded from a massive data breach just before Christmas last year. The latest results exceeded forecasts by financial analysts and provided some encouragement as Target gears up for the holiday shopping season. The stock gained $3.44, or 5.1 percent, to $70.95.

Staples surged 9.2 percent, a day after the office supply chain reported higher fiscal third-quarter earnings. The stock rose $1.18 to $13.94.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that construction of new U.S. homes fell 2.8 percent in October after surging 7.8 percent the previous month. The weakness was largely driven by the volatile apartment sector. Construction of single-family homes was up 4.2 percent, the third gain in the past four months.

Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 slipped 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.7 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.2 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.6 percent to 5,368.80.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose 12 cents to $74.77 a barrel in New York.

U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.34 percent from 2.33 percent late Tuesday.