By Vincent Mao, Investor’s Business Daily

Stocks lost steam in late trading and ended narrowly mixed Wednesday, as comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke derailed a rally sparked by the central bank’s new bond-buying program.

The Nasdaq fell 0.3% after rising as much as 0.4% intraday. The Dow Jones industrial average edged fractionally lower, while the S&P 500 ticked up a fraction.

The Federal Reserve had earlier said that it would buy $45 billion in long-term Treasuries monthly to replace a soon-to-expire program. But stocks waned late in the day, as Bernanke said that stalemate in the fiscal cliff is already hurting the economy.

Homebuilders were among Wednesday’s best performers as the Fed committed to keeping interest rates low.

Meritage Homes (MTH) rallied 4% in fast trade, but ended just below its 50-day moving average. The stock is building a new base, but is lagging in accumulation. After losing 65 cents a share in 2011, Meritage is expected to turn a profit of 73 cents a share this year. Earnings are slated to surge to $2.06 a share in 2013.

Rivals KB Home (KBH) and Lennar (LEN) rose 4% each. Both regained their 50-day lines. KB Home barely did so.

On the downside, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) gapped down and dropped 3% in heavy volume after CEO Mike Duke told the Council on Foreign Relations Tuesday that the chain’s in-store polling showed that 15% of customers may curb holiday spending due to concerns about the fiscal cliff standoff. Wal-Mart closed slightly above its 200-day line, which acted as support in November.

Trimble Navigation (TRMB) lost 1% in fast trade after reversing from a new record high. The stock snapped a five-session win streak. But it’s still 9% past a 54.09 buy point in a cup-with-handle base.

Data on initial jobless claims, retail sales, producer prices and business inventories will be out Thursday. Adobe Systems (ADBE) and Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) will report earnings Thursday.