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Stocks end mostly lower as Fed meeting begins

Stocks were mostly lower in afternoon trading Tuesday as the Federal Reserve kicks off its two-day meeting on interest rate policy and investors wait for clues on when the central bank may begin raising rates. In a statement following the meeting that concludes Wednesday, the Fed is likely to drop a promise to be patient as it weighs interest rate hikes, clearing a path for an increase as early as June based on recent Fed guidance.2013-11-04T131020Z_8_CBRE99U0VX000_RTROPTP_3_MARKETS-STOCKS_original`

The Fed’s benchmark rate has been near zero since the 2008 financial crisis, which has helped fuel the six-year bull market. The Dow Jones industrial average was down about 140 points, giving back a chunk of Monday’s 228-point rally, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.4%. Tech stocks were holding steady as the Nasdaq composite index was trading at the break-even point.

Oil fell for a sixth straight day and was trading at six-year lows as U.S. benchmark crude dropped 1.6% to $43.18 a barrel. Weak housing data also weighed on the market as the government reported that housing starts plunged 17% in February as harsh winter weather hampered construction of new homes.

European shares were mixed Tuesday as Britain’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.5% and Germany’s DAX index tumbled 1.5%. France’s CAC 40 was down 0.6%. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.2%. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.6%, amid hopes the Chinese government will announce new economic stimulus.