The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

August 1, 2012

US stocks waver ahead of Fed meeting

NEW YORK — Stocks are mostly higher in morning trading. But the real action isn’t expected until the afternoon.

That’s when the Federal Reserve wraps up its two-day policy meeting and, presumably, gives investors some signal about whether it plans to pump more money into the economy.

It’s almost a perverse equation, because the Fed meetings have some investors rooting for a poor report on the economy. That’s because if the Fed thinks the economy is weakening, it’s more likely to spend more money trying to revive it, and investors would take that as a good sign.

After two days of fizzling, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 15 points to 13,023 in the first half-hour of trading Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is down a quarter point at 1,379 and the Nasdaq composite slipped two to 2,937.

On Thursday, investors will be glued to the outcome of another meeting. European Central Bank leaders will be meeting, and investors will want to know if they have some concrete plan to tame the continent’s debt crisis or merely the talk. Stocks climbed at the end of last week after key European leaders, including ECB President Mario Draghi, promised to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the union of the 17 countries that use the euro.

U.S. companies continued to report second-quarter earnings, with mixed results. For every sign that the economy might be improving, there was another indication that it isn’t.

Americans were happy, for example, to spend on buying cars and watching cable. Chrysler, Volkswagen and Nissan reported strong July sales. The cable company Comcast beat second-quarter earnings expectations. Comcast’s stock jumped 4 percent, rising $1.28 to $33.83.

But they were less happy to spend on motorcycles and makeup. Harley-Davidson sank 10 percent, losing $4.27 to $38.96, after missing sales expectations. Avon lost 22 cents to $15.27 after missing expectations for both earnings and sales.

In economic news, payroll provider ADP reported that U.S. businesses added 163,000 jobs in July, much more than the 120,000 predicted by analysts. The survey only tracks private-sector hiring, and can sometimes deviate sharply from the government’s own calculations. The government reports its own July hiring numbers on Friday.

The better signal on the job market sent the yield on U.S. government bonds higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.51 percent from 1.47 percent late Tuesday. The higher yields means investors are moving money out of ultra-safe investments like Treasurys.

 

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