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Major stock indexes are down Wednesday as investors keep an eye on the afternoon release of minutes of the central bank's recent board meeting.

In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 are down about 0.1% each, while the Nasdaq composite is down 0.4%.

Investors hope to get clues into the Fed's next moves on stimulus easing at 2 p.m. ET, when the minutes are released.

At its January meeting, the Fed voted to pull back further on its bond-buying program, which has pushed down long-term interest rates and helped push the stock market higher. It was also the last meeting led by former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Zale stock is soaring -- up as much as 40% -- on news that Signet Jewelers will acquire the company. Signet also jumped, rising 16%.

Oil kept cruising above the $100 a barrel mark. Benchmark U.S. oil for March delivery was up 35 cents to $102.45 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2.13 overnight to $102.43.

Shares were lackluster in Asia on Wednesday. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo slipped 0.5% to 14,766.53 after big gains the previous day.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.1% to 1,840.76 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.7% to 4,272.78. The Dow fell 0.2% to 16,130.40.

Markets across Europe were tepid, with France's CAC eking out a 0.2% gain while the FTSE in Britain and Germany's DAX were flat.

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