Stocks rallied on Wednesday, recouping their loses from Tuesday's selloff –- and that's basically been the story all year. The Dow and S&P have set some record highs in 2014. They've also dipped several times, raising fears of a correction -- a decline of 10 percent or more. But add it all up and the major averages have held within fairly narrow ranges all year.
With minutes from the Federal Reserve's last FOMC meeting indicating that there's no interest rate hike coming anytime soon, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 158 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 15, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 34 points.
Leading the blue chips upward, Goldman Sachs (GS), Verizon (VZ), Chevron (CVX), Microsoft and Cisco (CSCO) all rose 1 percent or more. Cisco, however, did warn of a "brutal" period of consolidation ahead for the tech sector, but that did not have much of an impact on trading Wednesday.
For the second day in a row, a slew of retailers posted earnings. Target's (TGT) numbers were in line with expectations, and the stock gained 1 percent. Over the past year, though, it's lost 20 percent. Target is still unable to estimate the total cost from last year's massive data breach.
Lowe's (LOW) edged lower. Its net was okay but sales were below expectations.
The teen apparel chain American Eagle (AEO) lost 6½ percent. Earnings fell sharply from a year ago, its forecast for the current quarter was weak and the company plans to close 150 stores.
PetSmart (PETM) fell 8 percent after forecasting a "challenging environment."
But Tiffany (TIF) shares glittered, up 9 percent. Net was weak, but sales topped expectations and the company upped its forecast for the year.
Also on the earnings front, cloud computing company Salesforce.com (CRM) fell 5 percent despite beating expectations.
And food maker Hormel (HRL), best known for its Spam and chili, fell nearly 3 percent.
Elsewhere, Trina Solar (TSL) jumped 30 percent after forecasting higher solar panel shipments.
And late in the session, cigarette maker Lorillard (LO) popped 10 percent on a Reuters report that it's in talks to be acquired.
Tecogen (TGEN), which produces electricity for industrial buildings, more than doubled in price after completing a stock offering.
And the insurance giant AIG (AIG) rose 2 percent on a Goldman Sachs upgrade to "buy."
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m.: the National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for April; Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates; and the Conference Board releases leading indicators for April.
These major companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial statements:'
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This may seem distasteful, as many Americans believe it unsafe to eat marked-down meat close to its sell-by date. The truth is, supermarket chains mark down meat up to 75 percent several days before the sell-by date. If you're prepared to cook (or freeze) the meat as soon as you get it home, there should be no problem. Naturally, look at it and smell it when you get home. If you have any doubt, toss it. And don't buy meat after the sell-by date. I have been buying meat this way for several years with nary a problem. Two good websites can help quell your unease about this: stilltasty.com (which also has an iPhone app) and eatbydate.com.
Before Thanksgiving is the best time to pick up frozen turkeys. I always buy two, one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. Just before St. Patrick's Day is often the best time to buy corned beef, and hams are rarely cheaper than before Easter.
As well you know, after a holiday, stores mark down the Easter candy, the Christmas gifts and the Passover and Hanukkah fixings. These are great opportunities to pick up foodstuffs that usually only grace holiday tables, to enjoy at other times.
Often, stores anticipate greater demand for ethnic foodstuffs than their patrons deliver. Take advantage of your neighbors unadventurous palates by exploring the world of flavors available at the local grocery store. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have an ethnic grocery store near you, many unusual foods will be substantially cheaper than at chain supermarkets. I love to go to ethnic grocers; not only do they offer samples of unfamiliar foods, but people are generally willing to explain what to do with these new (to me and you) items. Also, seafood can be considerably cheaper. Last weekend, live Maryland blue crabs were $3.99 a pound -- that's cheap even in Maryland. And you can buy fish heads and other cuts of fish to flavor stocks and chowders.
Most stores with bakeries bake more than customers will buy. One store near me always has a section of not-as-fresh breads and sweet items 50 percent off. At these prices, those are often more cost-effective than homemade.
At the back of the store, groceries hide shelves of dented or unlabeled cans and smushed boxes -- but there's nothing wrong with the contents. A few months ago, I bought a case of pasta at 11 cents a box. In some towns, small stores buy the dented and older inventory of the chains. The main caveat for dented cans is never buy a can that is bulging or that is punctured or pierced; both can signal dangers such as botulism.
Store usually just want to get rid of these unpopular items, and they may never been seen again. Sometimes, they are products discontinued by the manufacturer. They seem to be more frequent in the frozen food aisle, in my experience.
Milk or butter are rarely marked down, but sometimes stores have gourmet cheeses at half-price. With good cheeses often going for more per pound than high-end cuts of beef, this is a fine thing for cheese lovers.
With prices for some produce also running as high per pound as meat, it's good to know that some stores mark down their uglier, older fruits and vegetables. While those may not be pretty enough for a star turn at the table when you're entertaining guests, they're more than good enough for supporting roles in stews, sauces, soups, compotes and cobblers. You can also be bold and ask -- in a nice way -- what happens with this unlovely produce and see what that gets you.