NEW YORK - Investors drew some comfort Wednesday from signals that the Federal Reserve is worried about the slow pace of the U.S. economic recovery and feels more urgency about providing help.
Stocks climbed back from lows after minutes from the last major Fed meeting were released. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, down most of the day, eked out a gain of 0.32 point to 1,413.49.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 30.82 at 13,172.76. It was down as much as 83 points earlier. The Nasdaq composite index added 6.41 points to 3,073.67.
The price of gold rose, as it sometimes does when investors think the Fed is about to pump money into the economy. Gold climbed $14 an ounce to $1,657, its highest level since early May, in trading after the day's official close.
When investors expect stimulus from the Fed, they sometimes buy gold in anticipation of a weaker dollar or because of inflation fears.
The minutes, from a meeting July 31 and Aug. 1, showed "many members" of the Fed's Open Market Committee felt additional action would be warranted unless the economic recovery shows "substantial and sustainable strengthening."
The minutes also showed that many officials favored pushing any increase in short-term interest rates beyond the Fed's current target of late 2014. Many economists think the target will be pushed to mid-2015.
On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors reported that Americans bought more homes in July than in June and prices rose, evidence of a recovering housing market. The 2.3 percent increase in sales from June was the first gain in three months.
But the rate of home sales, at 4.47 million annually, was below the pace of April and May and well below the rate of roughly 5.5 million that economists consider healthy.
"The economic numbers haven't been robust, but they've been better lately," said Stephen Carl, principal and head equity trader at investment bank Williams Capital Group.