Investors took a wait-and-see attitude Tuesday, but airline stocks lost altitude. The market is in a holding pattern until 2 p.m. Wednesday, when the Fed reveals details of this week's FOMC policy meetings, and whether it's ready to begin cutting back on its main economic stimulus program. If it does begin to taper, the next debate will begin immediately: Is that good or bad for investors?
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) edged down 9 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) fell nearly 6, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) lost 5 points.
The Dow's gainers were led by a pair of companies hiking their dividends. 3M (MMM), which makes everything from Post-It notes to medical equipment, rose 3 percent after increasing its payout by 35 percent. And Boeing (BA) rose 1 percent. It boosted the dividend by 50 percent and announced a big stock buyback.
The other big blue chip winner was Visa (V), which gained another 2.5 percent. Its stock is now up 43 percent from a year ago.
On the downside, Verizon (VZ), IBM (IBM), McDonald's (MCD) and Microsoft (MSFT) all lost about one percent. Microsoft says it will not name a new CEO until next year.
And airline stocks were broadly lower. United (UAL) and Delta (DAL) both fell 3 percent. American Airlines (AAL), which completed its merger with U.S. Airways last week, fell 2 percent. And Southwest (V) also lost 2 percent.
Brokerage recommendations gave a boost to several issues.
Data storage companies Seagate (STX), up 3 percent, and Western Digital (WDC), up 2.5 percent, following JP Morgan upgrades. And iRobot (IRBT) surged 17 percent after Raymond James gave it a 'strong buy.'
Shares of Facebook (FB) rose 2 percent, hitting an all-time high. The social media giant is rolling out new video ads this week. That's expected to boost revenue. The question is, will it alienate users?
On the downside, Targacept (TRGT) lost more than a third of its value. A clinical trial of its schizophrenia drug did not meet expectations, and the company is dropping development. And chicken producer Sanderson Farms (SFAM) lost 3.5 percent as earnings fell far short of expectations.
What to Watch Wednesday:
- The Commerce Department releases housing starts for November at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
- Federal Reserve policymakers release a statement on interest rates at 2 p.m.
- The Senate Finance subcommittee holds a hearing on retirement security.