NEW YORK, April 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks witnessed choppy trade for the week, as Wall Street digest the minutes from the Federal Reserve's March meeting amid a batch of economic reports.
The Fed minutes were the market spotlight of the week, which showed Fed officials want to start unwinding the central bank's massive 4.5-trillion-U.S.-dollar balance sheet later this year.
According to the minutes, policymakers reaffirmed the approach to balance sheet normalization articulated in the (Federal Open Market) Committee's Policy Normalization Principles and Plans announced in September 2014.
"Provided that the economy continued to perform about as expected, most participants anticipated that gradual increases in the federal funds rate would continue and judged that a change to the Committee's reinvestment policy would likely be appropriate later this year," the minutes said.
Analysts said that unwinding the balance sheet is significant both because of its sheer size and the impact it could have on markets as the move itself would amount to a rate hike.
On the economic front, a slew of economic data, including the key nonfarm payrolls report, were released during the week.
U.S. total nonfarm payroll employment edged up by 98,000, well below market estimates of 180,000, and the unemployment rate declined to 4.5 percent in March.
In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 5 cents to 26.14 U.S. dollars, following a 7-cent increase in February.
Some analysts said the pullback in hiring could give the U.S. central bank reason to be more cautious on its next rate hike.
U.S. private sector employment increased by 263,000 jobs from February to March, on a seasonally adjusted basis, well above the market consensus of 185,000, said the March ADP National Employment Report.
In the week ending April 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 234,000, a decrease of 25,000 from the previous week's revised level.
The U.S. Non-Manufacturing Index registered 55.2 percent in March, below market expectations of 57, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said in its monthly survey.
The U.S. goods and services deficit decreased by 4.6 billion U.S. dollars from 48.2 billion dollars in January to 43.6 billion dollars in February, below market consensus of 44.5 billion dollars.
New orders for manufactured goods in February, up seven of the last eight months, increased 4.8 billion dollars or 1.0 percent to 476.5 billion dollars, in line with market estimates.
The manufacturing index, also known as the purchasing managers index (PMI), registered 57.2 in March, above market estimates of 57 but a decrease of 0.5 percentage point from the previous month reading of 57.7.
U.S. construction spending during February came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,192.8 billion U.S. dollars, 0.8 percent above the revised January estimate.
Meanwhile, investors became cautious after the U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airbase.
The U.S. military on Thursday launched a targeted missile strike at a Syrian military airfield in its first direct assault on the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since Syrian crisis began six years ago.
For the week, the blue-chip Dow edged down 0.03 percent, and the broader S&P 500 fell 0.30 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq decreased 0.57 percent.