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US stocks fall after weak GDP data

US stocks closed modestly lower Wednesday after data showed the economy unexpectedly shrank in the fourth quarter last year and the Federal Reserve maintained its loose monetary policy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 44.77 points (0.32 percent) to 13,909.65.

The S&P 500-stock index shed 5.95 points (0.39 percent) at 1,501.89, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite fell 10.94 points (0.35 percent) to 3,142.72.

"Equities began the day on a mixed note, but the slightly bearish bias which persisted throughout the day caused the major averages to end near their lows," analysts said in a client note.

Before the opening bell, the Commerce Department reported the US economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the 2012 fourth quarter.

Hours later, the Federal Reserve, wrapping up a two-day policy meeting, dismissed the contraction as "transitory", noting the economy had "paused" in recent months.

The Fed stayed the course on its ultra-loose monetary policy as expected, saying growth should be moderate moving head.

"Today was far from a normal Fed-day as the FOMC announcement followed a GDP release that was negative for the first time in 13 consecutive quarters," said Jon Ogg of 24/

On the Dow, ExxonMobil and General Electric shed 1.2 percent, Alcoa lost 0.9 percent and 3M was down almost 1.0 percent.

Boeing led the small pack of blue-chip gainers, rising 1.3 percent. The aerospace giant reported a sharp fall in fourth-quarter earnings, as expected, and put fixing the battery problem that led to the global grounding of its 787 Dreamliner as its first priority for 2013.

Canadian-based Research in Motion slumped 12.0 percent after launching its new BlackBerry smartphone and announcing it would change its corporate name to BlackBerry.

Amazon jumped 4.8 percent after the online retailer late Tuesday posted quarterly earnings that showed wider margins.

Facebook rose 1.5 percent ahead of its fourth-quarter results released after the markets closed. Shares were down nearly three percent after the social network giant reported a dive in fourth-quarter profit from a year ago, to $64 million.

Natural-gas producer Chesapeake Energy surged 6.0 percent after the company announced that its embattled chief executive Aubrey McClendon would retire.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.01 percent from 1.99 percent late Tuesday, while the yield on the 30-year bond increased to 3.20 percent from 3.17 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.