(By Balachander) U.S. stocks erased losses and closed on a mixed note as minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting showed many central-bank officials favored another round of stimulus.
S&P 500 Index inched up 0.02 percent to close at 1,413.51. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.23 percent to end at 13,172.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.21 percent to finish at 3,073.67.
"Many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon unless incoming information pointed to a substantial and sustainable strengthening in the pace of the economic recovery," according to the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's July 31-August 1 policy-setting committee meeting.
The stocks were in the red for most of the session as investors weighed weak trade data from Japan and the upcoming meetings between Greek and European officials.
Japan reported a wider-than-expected trade deficit for July, data released by the Finance Ministry showed, adding to evidence of a slowing global economy. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet euro zone chief Jean Claude Juncker to seek more time for implementing austerity measures needed for the debt-laden country to receive bailout funds.
Meanwhile, a report from the National Association of Realtors showed existing home sales for July increased to 4.47 million units from 4.37 million in June, but came in below economists expectations of 4.52 million.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: HPQ, DELL, SRZ, ADI, WSM, TOL, EXPR, CHS, UCTT
In corporate news, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ), the world's largest seller of personal computers, reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and the company revised its full-year forecast. In extended trading, shares rose 1.35 percent.
Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) retreated as much as 7.5 percent after the PC maker posted lower-than-forecast quarterly revenue amid eroding PC sales and a drop in gross margins and the company offered a weak forecast.
Sunrise Senior Living Inc. (NYSE:SRZ) jumped 59.69 percent after the provider of senior living services agreed to be acquired by Health Care REIT Inc. (NYSE:HCN) for $14.50 per share in cash, a 62.4 percent premium to its previous closing price.
Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE:TOL) added 3.77 percent after the company posted a jump in quarterly earnings, helped by strong revenue growth and expansion of margins. Revenue surged 41 percent and homebuilding deliveries rose 39 percent in units for the third quarter.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. (NYSE:WSM) surged 11.64 percent after the retailer of home products raised its 2012 earnings forecast following better-than-expected quarterly results.
Express Inc. (NYSE:EXPR) slumped 11.07 percent. The apparel retailer reduced its full-year earnings forecast after second-quarter sales fell short of market expectations amid drop in margins. The company also guided third-quarter below consensus.
Chico's FAS Inc. (NYSE:CHS) gained 6.62 percent after the women's specialty retailer reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, helped by jump in sales and expansion of margins.
Analog Devices Inc. (NASDAQ:ADI) shed 1.59 percent following its lower quarterly earnings amid a sharp decline in margins. The microchip maker also issued a soft forecast for the fourth quarter.
Ultra Clean Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:UCTT) declined 10.45 percent after the developer of tests subsystems for the semiconductor capital equipment industry reduced its revenue guidance for the third quarter.
European markets closed sharply lower ahead of Greece meet, with Germany's DAX down 1.01 percent to close at 7,017.75. France's CAC40 retreated 1.47 percent to finish at 3,461.65. U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 1.42 percent to end at 5,774.20.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index lost 0.50 percent to finish at 2,107.71. Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.27 percent to end at 9,131.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 1.06 percent to end at 19,887.78. India's BSE Sensex closed at 17,846.86, down 0.21 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan:
Crude oil futures rose 0.44 percent to $97.27 per barrel and natural gas futures jumped 2.70 percent to $2.850 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures advanced 0.83 percent to $1,656.5 per ounce and silver futures gained 0.43 percent to $29.641 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro advanced 0.39 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.2522. The British pound rose 0.54 percent against the greenback to 1.5870, while the dollar shed 0.93 percent against the Japanese yen to 78.5500.