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Spend a historical day at Chico’s Bidwell Park and Yo-Yo museum

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U.S. stocks drifted between small gains and losses in late-afternoon trading Wednesday as investors digested the Federal Reserve's latest policy announcement. The central bank reiterated that it will be patient in raising rates from record lows, noting that inflation remains ultra-low. But it also strengthened its assessment of the U.S. economy.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,367 as of 3:09 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,022. The Nasdaq composite added two points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,684.

FED WATCH: In a statement after its latest policy meeting, the Fed made clear that no rate increase is imminent, reiterating it would remain "patient" in raising rates from near zero. The central bank also said it anticipates inflation will decline further before starting to rise gradually. Inflation has stayed ultra-low partly because of a plunge in energy prices and a steadily rising dollar.

In addition, the Fed strengthened its assessment about how the U.S. economy is performing, saying it is expanding at a solid pace and generating strong job gains.

THE QUOTE: "The market is, on one hand, happy the Fed is saying things look solid, but it means at some point we will get that first rate hike," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist for Prudential Financial.

Many economists have forecast a Fed rate hike no earlier than June. When interest rates remain low they tend to make stocks more attractive in comparison with bonds.

SECTOR WATCH: Seven of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 fell, with energy stocks dropping the most as the slide in oil prices resumed. The sector is down 4.8 percent this year. Technology stocks led the gainers. The sector is coming off a steep decline on Tuesday.

OUT OF GAS: Shares in several oil and gas exploration companies, as well as drilling services and equipment providers, tumbled as oil prices continued to decline. Nabors Industries dropped the most among companies in the S&P 500. It slid $1.30, or 10.9 percent, to $10.58. Denbury Resources lost 59 cents, or 8.3 percent, to $6.55. National Oilwell Varco fell $3.90, or 6.8 percent, to $53.80.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.87 to $44.36 in New York. The U.S. releases its inventory report Wednesday. The contract added $1.08 on Tuesday to close at $46.23.

IPHONE FEVER: Shares in Apple surged $7.65, or 7 percent, to $116.79 after the tech giant reported record-smashing earnings for its latest quarter. Apple said late Tuesday that it sold 74.5 million iPhones during the three months that ended Dec. 31, beating Wall Street expectations.

JETSETTER: Boeing's profit vaulted 19 percent in the fourth-quarter on strong demand for commercial jets airliners. The results topped Wall Street expectations by a wide margin. The stock rose $8.92, or 6.7 percent, to $141.40.

BEATING EXPECTATIONS: A day after several big-name companies turned in disappointing financial results, investors welcomed a batch of better earnings. Along with Boeing, video-game maker Electronic Arts, storage container seller Tupperware Brands and computer chip maker Freescale Semiconductor each reported better-than-expected earnings. Shares in Electronic Arts rose $6.40, or 13.2 percent, to $54.81, while Tupperware gained $6.64, or 11.1 percent, to $66.38. Freescale jumped $4.80, or 18.2 percent, to $31.15.

STURDY RESULTS: U.S. Steel reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit and revenue, but its financial results beat Wall Street expectations. The stock climbed $2.52, or 11.8 percent, to $23.79.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: European markets were mixed as investors monitored developments in Greece, where the new government said it would change many of the budget measures promised to eurozone creditor nations in exchange for rescue loans. Germany's DAX rose 0.8 percent, while France's CAC 40 shed 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.6 percent.

CURRENCY: The dollar edged lower to 117.72 yen from Tuesday's 117.80 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1329 from the previous session's $1.1362.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.72 percent.


AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this story.



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