A weary market couldn't seem to find relief Tuesday, even after a positive first batch of earnings and indications that the Federal Reserve was not as hawkish as feared, at least not when it delivered its most recent rate hike. According to the minutes of the Sept. 20 Fed meeting, Fed officials even considered pausing rate hikes after the economic disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina. But "a pause in policy tightening at this meeting had the potential to mislead the public both about the committee's perceptions of the fundamental strength and resilience of the economy and about its commitment to fostering price stability," Fed members thought. On Wall Street, where fears of inflation and of a more hawkish Fed have led to sharp drops in stock prices last week, investors breathed a short-lived sigh of relief. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped to an intraday high of 10,312 after the minutes were released before giving back most of the gains by the close. The blue-chip average finished at 10,253.17, on a modest gain of 14.41 points, or 0.14%. The Dow remained supported by the likes of Alcoa ( AA), which posted better-than-expected earnings after the close on Monday, and IBM ( IBM), which was upgraded by CSFB. The S&P 500 lost 2.46 points, or 0.21%, at 1184.87. The losses were cushioned by energy shares that, after being battered last week, advanced as the price of crude oil rose $1.75 to $63.55 on Nymex. The Amex Oil Index rose 2%, lifted by the likes of Sunoco ( SUN), Amerada Hess ( AHC) and Chevron ( CVX). The Nasdaq Composite fell 17.83 points, or 0.9%, to 2061.09, closing below its 200-day moving average (at 2076) for the first time since mid-May. The losses came even as bulls were anticipating strong earnings from tech darlings Apple ( AAPL) and Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) after the close. The bulls only got half of what they wanted and, from a sentiment standpoint, it's likely the "wrong" company exceeded expectations.
Apple posted fourth-quarter sales that were
below estimates and its shares were recently down 10.6% in after-hours trading. Meanwhile, AMD's results flew by expectations and its stock was recently up 1.3% in post-close trading. While Apple's disappointment could dictate trading Wednesday, it's also notable that market breadth was decidedly negative Tuesday even as the S&P and Nasdaq suffered relatively modest declines. Decliners led advancers 5 to 4 in Big Board trading, where a solid 2.3 billion shares changed hands. Losers outpaced gainers by 21 to 8 in Nasdaq trading, where 1.9 billion shares traded and over 75% of the volume was to the downside. Consumer Price Index Friday, this piece of paper could be worthless."