Stocks Finish Mixed as Apple Weighs

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks finished mixed Wednesday as investors reacted to another round of spotty earnings reports and disappointing new home sales data.

Growing chatter about the prospect of more monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve provided some support for equities. According to The Wall Street Journal, voices in favor of taking action are getting louder ahead of the central bank's policy meeting next week. Gold, which is generally seen as benefiting from additional quantitative easing, jumped more than $30 to soar above $1600 an ounce.

Selling pressure on Apple was a big headwind to overcome though as the stock lost more than 4% after the company's surprise earnings miss.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced nearly 59 points, or 0.47%, to settle at 12,676. The blue-chip index, which ranged from 12,617 to 12,732 on the day, snapped a streak of three consecutive triple-digit declines.

Nineteen of the Dow's 30 components finished with gains, led by Boeing ( BA), Cisco ( CSCO), AT&T ( T) and Caterpillar ( CAT). Both Boeing and Caterpillar were lifted by solid quarterly reports.

Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Microsoft ( MSFT) and Kraft Foods ( KFT) were the biggest blue-chip losers.

The S&P 500 was down fractionally, closing at 1338. The Nasdaq lost nearly 9 points, or 0.31%, to close at 2854.

The weakest sectors in the broad market were technology, consumer cyclicals and utilities. The health care, conglomerates and basic materials sectors were areas of strength.

The latest piece of soft data came from the housing market, which has been the one bright spot in the economy over the past few months. The Commerce Department said new home sales fell 8.4% in June to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 350,000, from May's upwardly-revised rate of 382,000. Economist surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected sales to rise to seasonally adjusted annual rate of 370,000.

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