Stocks are set to end the week slightly lower after the minutes of the Fed's Open Market Committee indicated that the central bank could look to slow its asset purchases in the foreseeable future... MACRO NEWS: The minutes from the committee's last meeting noted that several committee members favored adjusting the central bank's asset purchases in response to the economy's outlook. Other members warned that continued asset purchases could damage the economy... Also dragging down stocks was data from Europe. A euro zone purchasing managers' index for February fell compared with January. Economists had expected the index to increase... In the U.S., members of Congress did not appear to make progress toward averting the automatic government spending cuts set to go into effect on March 1... COMPANY NEWS: Office Depot (ODP) and Office Max (OMX) announced that they had agreed to merge. Some analysts believe that Staples (SPLS) will benefit from the merger... VeriFone (PAY) pre-announced much weaker than expected results and its stock plunged... On a more positive note, Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) results beat expectations and its stock rallied.