(Dow Jones) Despite the near-term uncertainty about the economy that the Federal Reserve highlighted, professional investors still see longer-term value in buying equities. The difference is, "buy and hold" has evolved into "wait, buy and wait."

That's not likely to make equities any more attractive to the retail investor, who is not accustomed to waiting to make money, especially when the outlook for the job market remains uncertain.

The Fed said Tuesday that the pace of economic recovery would probably be "more modest in the near term than had been anticipated," and that it would help support the recovery by keeping the size of its balance sheet constant.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 244 points in midday trading Wednesday to 10400, putting the index fractionally into negative territory for the year.

Tom Sowanick, co-president and chief investment officer at OmniVest Group, said the Fed's statement has confirmed that it is in a position of "permahold."

That actually reinforces his belief that the downside to stocks is limited over the longer term, as strong corporate balance sheets and a continued low cost for capital decreases default risks. That's why Sowanick thinks equities are still a place to be, but not at any price or at any time.

Hinsdale Associates Director of Investments Andrew Fitzpatrick, said that after the Fed's statement, he was still certain about the continued health of the business sector, and is therefore still certain equities are a buy.

What's remains uncertain, however, is when the retail investor will return.

Fitzpatrick said since a lot of the same issues that have weighed on markets recently are still in play, such as high unemployment and a weak housing market, he thinks equities could move sideways for quite a while. The health of corporate America would limit the downside, but the missing retail investor would keep the upside capped.

Until retail investors have reason to feel safe about putting money back into the market, the constant flow of money into equity funds will not be there to smooth declines and fuel a longer-term uptrend. That should keep short-term volatility high, which in turn would keep retail investors from feeling safe about stocks, much less their jobs.

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