NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are little changed in afternoon trading on Wall Street. Investors are looking over company earnings, a government showing economic growth stalled during the fourth quarter and the Federal Reserve's assessment that the economy is picking up and needs less help from the Fed.
- The Federal Reserve says it will make a fourth $10 billion cut in its monthly bond purchases to $45 billion because it thinks the U.S. job market needs less help. The Fed says the economy has picked up recently after slowing sharply during the winter. It's also reaffirming its plan to keep short-term interest rates low to support the economy "for a considerable time" after its bond purchases end, likely late this year. The guidance issued after a two-day meeting conforms to goals that Chair Janet Yellen noted in a speech this month.
- As expected, Senate Republicans have blocked a Democratic bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage. The bill would have gradually increased the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over 30 months. Supporters fell six votes short of the 60 needed to allow debate on the bill.
- A government watchdog confirms what airline passengers are finding when they try to book a flight: Service to communities of all sizes is declining, but especially to small and medium airports. The Government Accountability Office told Congress that there are fewer flights and fewer seats available at airports of all sizes than there were seven years ago. Smaller destinations were particularly affected, with flights down as much as 24 percent since 2007.
- Southwest Airlines is falling behind other airlines when it comes to arriving on time, and the carrier plans to tinker with its flight schedule to fix that. CEO Gary Kelly says the airline will add a few minutes between some flights, and it will be more cautious about selling itineraries with tight connections between flights. Southwest has long prided itself for being on time. It still ranks No. 1 all-time among the six big airlines that have been reporting such records to the government, but it hasn't topped the charts for a full year since 2001.