US stocks wobble as Fed moves awaited

NYSE traders Image copyright Getty Images

(Close): Wall Street markets had a bumpy trading day ahead of the results of a Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 21.99 points to 17,145.65.

The S&P 500 fell 3.76 points to 2,015.88, while the tech-focused Nasdaq was down 21.61 to 4,728.67.

Analysts do not expect a US interest rate rise on Wednesday, but are eager for signs of the Fed's future plans.

"Policy will almost certainly be left on hold," said Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics. "With no change in rates, the focus will be entirely on forward guidance."

The trading mood was dampened further by a weak US retail sales report and a 2% decline in oil prices.

Valeant was Tuesday's biggest loser after the company reported a larger than expected loss. The pharmaceutical company's shares fell over 51% as fears rose that it may face a default on some of its loans.

Shares of drug maker Pfizer fell 1.8% and Merck fell 1.2%.

Commodity linked companies saw some of the day's biggest gains.

Rice Energy shares gained 8.9%. Shares of Barrick Gold climbed 3.8% and competitor Harmony Gold rose 4%.