Stocks End Mixed After Fed Holds Steady on Rates, Apple Hits Record

Stocks finish mixed after the Federal Reserve leaves interest rates unchanged and Apple hits a record high on strong quarterly earnings.
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  1. Stocks ended mixed as investors looked for support from stronger-than-expected earnings from Apple and other blue-chip companies, and the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged.
  2. General Electric is Real Money's Stock of the Day. GE posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and said its 2020 industrial profits and cash flow would improve notably in 2020.
  3. Boeing posted a sharp fourth-quarter loss as the billions in costs linked to the ongoing delay of the grounded 737 MAX hammered the planemaker's top and bottom lines. Despite the losses, Boeing shares rose Wednesday. 

Stocks finished mixed Wednesday as investors looked for support from stronger-than-expected earnings from Apple (AAPL) - Get Report and other blue-chip companies and the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended essentially up just  12 points, or 0.04%, to 28,735. The Dow had risen as much as high 221 points earlier in the session. The S&P 500 finished off 0.09% and the Nasdaq rose 0.06%.

Apple, the Dow's biggest gainer, smashed fiscal first-quarter earnings forecasts, thanks in part to robust demand for its new suite of iPhones. But the tech giant cautioned that it was monitoring the spread of the coronavirus "very closely" in China, a key growth market and home to around 380 manufacturing facilities that feed into its supply chain.

Apple shares hit an all-time high Wednesday of $327.85.

Apple's blowout quarter offset some concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in China. The spread of the virus has showed no signs of abating with the number of confirmed cases rising past 6,000, a figure greater than the total number of infections from the SARS outbreak in 2003. The number of fatalities also has risen sharply to 132.

The World Health Organization was meeting Thursday to consider issuing a global alarm after coronavirus cases in China surpassed the official number of SARS infections, Bloomberg reported.

The Federal Reserve opted to leave benchmark interest rates unchanged, as expected, at the conclusion of its two-day meeting on Wednesday as officials said they would continue to monitor for signs that last year's interest rate cuts were having an effect. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed would be more flexible on balance sheet policy.

"While no move on rates (Wednesday) was expected, a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak will quickly render the March FOMC meeting as ripe for the next potential rate cut," said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist of Quill Intelligence. "Rate cuts have been repriced into the markets in the last week, thanks to uncertainty over the virus. Even the Federal Reserve is keeping an eye on the coronavirus developments out of China." 

General Electric (GE) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and said its 2020 industrial profits and cash flow will improve notably in 2020 as the ongoing turnaround under CEO Larry Culp continues to win over investors.

Boeing (BA) - Get Report posted a sharp fourth-quarter loss as the billions in costs linked to the ongoing delay of the grounded 737 MAX hammered the planemaker's top and bottom lines. Boeing reported its first annual loss since 1997. Despite the losses, Boeing rose Wednesday.

AT&T's (T) - Get Report fourth-quarter earnings topped estimates and the telecommunications, media and entertainment giant reaffirmed its full-year profit guidance as it prepares for its launch of its HBO Max streaming service later this year.

McDonald's (MCD) - Get Report posted fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday that beat analysts' forecasts as comparable same-store sales rose 5.1% in the U.S., beating the average estimate for 4.7% growth. Worldwide same-store sales also topped projections.

Mastercard (MA) - Get Report, the credit-card giant, beat Wall Street's fourth-quarter earnings forecasts, more than doubling its profit from a year earlier.

After the closing bell Wednesday earnings reports are expected from Microsoft MSFT, Facebook FB, Tesla TSLA and Lam Research LRCX.

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Mastercard and Lam Research are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.