U.S. markets bounced around early in the day, digesting mixed economic news and shaking off a computer trading glitch that caused trading in several stocks to be halted after circuit breakers were triggered. But in reality, markets were just waiting to hear from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and after he spoke in the early afternoon, markets finally moved, but not very much.
After all the worrying and thinking by investors, in the end the Fed’s Open Market Committee statement was essentially the same as the one it released after its June meeting: It’s likely to hold interest rates at low levels at least through 2014, with no mention of additional stimulus measures.
Investors can now worry about another meeting, starting tomorrow in Germany where European Central Bank officials will discuss Europe’s ongoing problems. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, the Nasdaq took the worst of the day’s losses, falling 0.66% to finish at 2,920, while the Dow slipped below the 13,000 mark by finishing 0.25% lower at 12,796, and the S&P lost 0.29% to close at 1,375.
On the economic front, car sales fell as GM (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F) and Chrysler (PINK:FIATY) all posted sales that missed analyst forecasts. Shares of Tesla Motors (NYSE:TSLA) took the worst of the segment’s fall, dropping over 4%, while Ford was down 1.6%, and GM dropped marginally.
The ISM manufacturing survey came in at a disappointing level of 49.8, a marginal improvement over June, but still below analyst expectations of 50.2. That’s the second consecutive below-50 reading that shows contraction in this key sector. Shares of manufacturers Cummins (NYSE:CMI), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Terex (NYSE:TEX) were all down on the news for the day.
One piece of good news came from ADP (NYSE:ADP), which announced that U.S. private-sector employers added 163,000 jobs in July, well above the 125,000 figure anticipated by economists.
On the earnings front, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) shares rallied on solid revenue and earnings gains as the company signed up more Internet and phone customer after unveiling a new high-speed offering in June. Comcast shares rose 3% on the news.
Also moving on earnings news were Avon (NYSE:AVP) and Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG). Both fell on revenue and earnings disappointments. Harley-Davidson dropped 3.6%, while Avon fell 1.25%.
In after-hours trading, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) is up 13% after second-quarter earnings of $1.27 per share came in 80% better than the year-ago period and crushed estimates for 90 cents.
Finally, despite a marginal loss on Wednesday, shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are up nearly 4% so far this week amid market speculation about a possible stock split and potential for its inclusion in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which could lose Kraft (NYSE:KFT) later this year.
Tomorrow’s earnings include InvestorPlace Dependable Dividend Stocks Clorox (NYSE:CLX), Real America Index component General Motors and Sunoco (NYSE:SUN).
- Frontier Communications (NYSE:FTR): Up 10.71% (42 cents) to $4.34
- Electronic Arts (NYSE:EA): Up 6% (66 cents) to $11.68
- Huntsman (NYSE:HUN): Up 4.9% (62 cents) to $13.27
- Tredegar (NYSE:TG): Down 7.43% ($1.10) to $13.71
- Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ:SAVE): Down 6.93% ($1.49) to $20.02
- J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP): Down 6.62% ($1.49) to $21.02
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing he was long AAPL.