Dow sinks for sixth day as Fed exit is pondered

NEW YORK — Stocks fell sharply Wednesday after the Federal Reserve disclosed that its top officials were mostly in agreement that the central bank should end its massive bond-buying program.

In the minutes from Fed’s July policy meeting, board members said it “might soon be time” to slow the purchases. The bond-buying program has been in place in one form or another since late 2008 to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth. Some investors believe the Fed’s bond-buying have inflated stock prices.

The Dow fell 105.44 to 14,897.55. The blue-chip index has fallen for six straight days for the first time since July 2012.

The S&P 500 fell 9.55 1,642.80. The Nasdaq lost 13.80 to 3,599.79.

US home sales hit 5.4M in July, best since 2009

WASHINGTON — For the first time since 2009, previously occupied U.S. homes are selling at a pace associated with a healthy market.

Sales jumped 6.5 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.4 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Over the past 12 months, sales have surged 17.2 percent. The trend shows that housing remains a driving force for the economy even as mortgage rates have risen from record lows.

Buyers have been purchasing previously occupied homes at an annual pace above 5 million for three straight months. The last time that happened was in 2007. Sales are far above the 3.45 million pace of July 2010, the low point after the housing bubble burst. Analysts generally think a healthy sales pace is roughly between 5 and 5.5 million.

Lowe’s riding housing’s rebound to fatter gains

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s second-quarter net income rose 26 percent to $941 million as Americans feeling good about sprucing up their homes again snapped up indoor and outdoor home products and supplies. Revenue rose 10 percent to $15.71 billion.

The second-largest home-improvement chain’s results beat Wall Street expectations. It also raised its full-year earnings and revenue forecasts Wednesday.

Lowe’s has revamped its pricing structure, offering what it says are permanent low prices on many items instead of fleeting discounts. It has also focused on hiring more workers and improving its inventory.

Target’s profit falls 13% amid wary consumers

NEW YORK — Target Corp. issued a muted annual profit forecast after reporting a 13 percent drop in second-quarter profits as the cheap-chic retailer deals with cautious shoppers.

Target is the latest in a string of companies, including rival Wal-Mart Stores , that have lowered their business expectations as they contend with an uncertain economy.

Target says it earned $611 million. Total revenue was $17.12 billion, up 2 percent. Revenue at stores open at least a year rose 1.2 percent, below the 1.9 percent analysts had expected.

Target has reached out to customers with two big growth initiatives. It has been offering a larger selection of food and also a program, started in 2010, that gives shoppers a 5 percent discount when they pay with Target-branded credit and debit cards.

At the same time, Target continues to team up with new designers for limited-time partnerships. Next month, Target is set to launch its latest designer collaboration, with Phillip Lim.

Wire reports