U.S. stocks moderately higher, eyes on Fed

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U.S. stocks opened moderately higher on Wednesday, after the release of mixed U.S. economic reports.

Investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s policy statement later in the day.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.04%, the S&P 500 index added 0.09%, while the Nasdaq Composite index rose 0.33%.

Official data showed that the U.S. economy shrank unexpectedly in the fourth quarter of 2012, marking the first contraction since the three months ending December 2009.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said gross domestic product contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the three months to December, defying expectations for growth of 1.1%.

The U.S. economy grew by 3.1% in the previous quarter.

Separately, payroll processing firm ADP said non-farm private employment rose by a seasonally adjusted 192,000 in January, above expectations for an increase of 165,000.

The previous month’s figure was revised down to a gain of 185,000 from a previously reported increase of 215,000.

Amazon.com rallied 8.30% after the online retailer late Tuesday reported gains in sales and North American operating margin.

In the same sector, social media giant Facebook climbed 0.48% before the release of its fourth-quarter earnings, due later in the session.

In the tech sector, Dell added 0.10% amid reports Michael Dell is seeking majority control of the company in a buyout that would combine his 15.7% stake in the company with as much as USD1 billion of his personal funds.

Elsewhere, Chesapeake Energy surged 10.91%, following reports the company’s CEO, Aubrey McClendon, is resigning – effective April 1 – amid an internal board investigation of the use of his stakes in thousands of company-owned wells to secure personal loans.

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