NEW YORK, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes dropped Thursday as investors pulled back on doubts about how long the Federal Reserve would continue with a liquidity program.
In meeting minutes released Wednesday, the Fed revealed divisions among members of the Open Market Committee about how to support the economic recovery.
Optimism was also tempered Thursday by a climb in first-time claims for unemployment benefits. The Labor Department said claims rose by 20,000 in the week to 362,000.
In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average gave up 62.13 points or 0.45 percent to 13,865.41.
The Standard and Poor's 500 lost 10.04 points, or 0.66 percent, to 1,501.91 points.
The Nasdaq composite shed 33.20 points, or 1.05 percent, to 3,131.21 points.
The 10-year U.S. treasury rose 13/32 to yield 1.969 percent.
Against the dollar the euro fell to $1.3194 from Wednesday's $1.3283. Against the yen, the dollar was lower at 92.94 yen from 93.56 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed at 11,309.13 points, dropping 159.15 points or 1.39 percent.
In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 1.62 percent, 103.83 points, to 6,291.54.
Inflation steady in January
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Consumer price inflation held steady in January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
Prices rose 1.6 percent on an annual basis, a slight drop from December, when the 12-month rate was 1.7 percent. On a month-to-month basis, however, prices were listed as unchanged for the second consecutive month. In the previous month, November, the month-to-month change was minus 0.2 percent.
Core prices, the category that excludes food and energy items, rose 0.3 percent in January from the previous month after gaining 0.1 percent in December.
The energy index fell 1.7 percent in January, the bureau said, with declines in gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas partly offset by an increase in the index for electricity.
After 10 months of increases, prices for food were unchanged in January, the bureau said.
On a 12-month basis, core prices are up 1.9 percent, close to the Federal Reserve's target of keeping annual inflation at 2 percent or below.
The core price category is closely watched as it illustrates how much energy price changes have affected prices overall.
On an unadjusted annual basis, the price index for medical care services rose 3.6 percent in January, prices for transportation services rose 3 percent and shelter costs rose 2.2 percent.
The price of new vehicles rose 1.7 percent, but the price of a used vehicle dropped 1.3 percent, the report said.
Leading indicators rose in January
NEW YORK, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2 percent in January, climbing for the second consecutive month, the Conference Board said Thursday.
The Leading Economic Index rose to 94.1 following a 0.5 percent gain in December and no change in the previous month.
"Despite continued weakness in manufacturers' new orders and consumer expectations, improvements in housing permits and financial components helped boost the LEI in January," he said.
The index maintained an upward trend that has held for the past six months, despite a drop in industrial production in January, he said.
The leading index compares current business activity with 2004, the year the Conference Board assigned a level of 100.
Chinese product may face duties
BEIJING, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- China says the United States may soon impose punitive duties on its drawn stainless steel sink exports.
The issue concerns duty investigations by the U.S. Commerce Department and its announcement of "affirmative final determination" on the Chinese product.
A preliminary determination in September alleged dumping by China of drawn stainless steel sinks, which are single or multiple drawn bowls and a smooth basin with seamless, smooth and rounded corners.
Dumping is said to have occurred when a foreign company is found to sell a product in the United States at less than fair value, aided by such measures as government subsidies.
The Commerce Department said Chinese producers and exporters sold the sinks at dumping margins of up to 76.53 percent. Exports of the products to the United States were valued at about $118 million in 2011.
Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said the "affirmative final determination" increases the possibility of imposition of punitive duties on the products. Chinese producers and exporters reportedly received subsidies.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is expected to make a final determination on the issue by April 5. If it finds the products caused material injury or threat to the U.S. industry, the Commerce Department will issue antidumping duty and countervailing duty orders.
China has said protectionism is making a comeback in the United States as the U.S. economy makes a sluggish recovery and that such actions would hurt U.S.-China trade relations critical to global economic recovery.
In December, the Chinese Commerce Ministry announced the United States replaced the European Union last year as the No. 1 market for Chinese exports, buying $319.4 billion of goods through November.