NEW YORK, Feb. 21 -- Stocks finished mixed Wednesday after consumer prices showed a larger-than-expected increase in January and minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting showed that the bank considered but decided against taking a more dovish tone on the threat of inflation.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 48.23, or 0.38 percent, to 12,738.41. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 2.05, or 0.14 percent, to 1457.63, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 5.38, or 0.21 percent, to 2518.42, its highest level in six years.

Inflation again commanded Wall Street's attention, with the latest readings unnerving some investors. The Fed minutes showed that policymakers thought economic threats spurred by the weak housing market were easing, though not enough to sound the all-clear on inflation.

The Labor Department's report that the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in January surprised Wall Street, which had expected an 0.1 percent increase. Declines in energy prices did not fully offset the rising costs of medical care, food and air travel. The core figure, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 percent, which was more than expected.

MoversHewlett-Packardfell $2.03, to $41.10, after its inventory increased in the first quarter. Quarterly sales and profit topped Wall Street's forecasts.

Pharmacyclicslost $1.85, closing at $3.19, after the Food and Drug Administration refused to review clinical studies of Xcytrin, which is used to treat lung cancer that has spread to the brain. The agency cited an improperly filed application, Pharmacyclics said.

Novastar Financialdeclined $7.46, to $10.10, after the mortgage lender swung to a fourth-quarter loss.

FuelCell Energyrose 27 cents, to $7.80, after the maker of fuel-cell power equipment expanded a manufacturing agreement with Posco Power, the largest privately controlled power producer in South Korea.

ConocoPhillipsgained 71 cents, to $66.29, as commodity prices rose.

AK Steel Holdingfinished up 27 cents, at $22.92.