* Chicago PMI well above expectations
* Jobless claims fall slightly less than expected
* Dow up 0.02 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks barely budged on
Thursday as investors exercised caution in the wake of the
Federal Reserve's policy announcement and some encouraging
The central bank said on Wednesday that it will keep buying
$85 billion of bonds per month, noting weaker economic signals
resulting from the partial government shutdown earlier in
October. The Fed's statement also dropped a phrase expressing
concern about a run-up in borrowing costs, suggesting greater
comfort with the current level of interest rates.
A gauge of business activity in the Midwest blew past
expectations in October, while weekly initial jobless claims
dipped in the latest week, countering recent economic data that
pointed to tepid economic growth.
The Fed statement, coupled with the economic data, opened
the possibility that the central bank may begin to trim its
bond-buying program earlier than previously thought.
"The Chicago PMI spiked higher significantly, showing
strength in manufacturing in that region, and the Fed is very
data dependent," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of
Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
"So there is going to be talk because of this that the Fed
is closing in on tapering bond purchases."
Visa Inc lost 2.9 percent to $197.86, making it the
biggest drag on both the Dow and the S&P 500 a day after the
world's largest credit and debit card company reported a 28
percent drop in quarterly profit.
The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 2.87
points, or 0.02 percent, to 15,621.63. The S&P 500 added
2.21 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,765.52. The Nasdaq Composite
rose 9.16 points or 0.23 percent, to 3,939.78.
The Dow has gained about 3 percent in October, while the S&P
500 had advanced nearly 5 percent and the Nasdaq has added about
Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp, one of the largest U.S.
companies by market capitalization, rose 1.6 percent to $90.20
after the company reported adjusted third-quarter earnings that
Facebook reported strong growth in its mobile
advertising business late on Wednesday, though it said it didn't
plan to boost the frequency of ads shown to users. Facebook's
stock shot up 4 percent to $50.97.
Expedia jumped 16.3 percent to $58.12 and ranked as
the S&P 500's best performer a day after reporting third-quarter
earnings that exceeded expectations.
Of the 355 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported
earnings through Thursday morning, 68.2 percent have topped Wall
Street's expectations, above both the 63 percent beat rate since
1994 and the 66 percent beat rate for the past four quarters,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Revenue has been lackluster, however, with 53.6 percent of
companies besting expectations, well shy of the 61 percent beat
rate since 2002, but slightly above the 49 percent rate for the
past four quarters.