For the second day in a row, the Dow Jones industrial index tested the 16,000 level, but failed to hold there. After the index rallied this morning, investors suffered from a bit of vertigo, and sent it back down again -- and then some. The Dow (^DJI) fell 9 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dropped 4, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) lost 17 points.
Meanwhile, a pair of big name companies edged higher on word of multibillion dollar settlements of long-term legal problems.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) agreed to pay $13 billion to bring an end to a series of lawsuits over mortgage bonds that went bad during the financial crisis. About $4 billion of that will go directly to homeowners to write down the principle owed on some home loans, and reduce monthly payments on others.
And Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has reportedly agreed to pay $250,000 to each of 8,000 patients injured by the company's allegedly faulty artificial hips. The total payout: at least $2.5 billion.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%On the earnings front, Home Depot (HD) beat expectations and raised its outlook for the current quarter. The improving housing market is encouraging homeowners to make improvements to their homes. Home Depot shares gained 1 percent. Rival Lowe's (LOW) fell nearly one percent ahead of its earnings report Wednesday morning.
But Campbell Soup (CPB) wasn't doing so hot. Its stock lost 6 percent as earnings badly missed expectations and the company lowered its outlook.
Elsewhere, United-Continental Holdings (UAL) jumped 4 percent. The airline says it plans to cut $2 billion in costs -- without making any layoffs.
Finally, stocks in the 3D printing field all ended sharply lower without any big news to drive the move. 3D Systems (DDD), Stratasys (SSYS) and ExOne (XONE) all fell more than 6 percent, and Voxeljet (VJET) slid 14 percent.
What to Watch Wednesday:
The Labor Department releases its consumer price index for October and the Commerce Department reports October retail sales, both at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m., the National Association of Realtors reports existing home sales for October, and the Commerce Department reports September business inventories.
At 2 p.m., the Federal Reserve releases minutes from last month's meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly corporate earnings:
After Market: Dow Bumps Against the 16,000 Ceiling; Big Day for Big Settlements
The promise: Offers customizable, themed portfolios of up to 30 stocks. Price: Free Available on: Website, iPhone
Motif lets you invest in a very narrow sector -- say, clean tech or companies tied to the housing rebound -- using one of 90 themed portfolios. The site requires a $250 minimum and charges a commission of $9.95 per portfolio.
You wouldn't want to use Motif for your retirement fund, but it's a fun way to invest your mad money if you play the market. The service could also be a good introduction to investing for novices, says MIT finance professor Andrew Lo.
The promise: Puts your investment data on a single dashboard and recommends ways to optimize your portfolio. Price: Free Available on: Website, iPhone, Android
This site-and-app combo syncs with more than 90 brokerages to track your 401(k), IRA, and stock market investments.
You can also see charts breaking down your asset allocation and risk level.
What really sets SigFig apart from other investing tools, though, is that the service checks your portfolio weekly for hidden fees, overcharges, and underperforming funds, and suggests alternatives.
The promise: Tracks and analyzes your investment, bank, and credit card accounts. App allows you to make payments and transfers. Price: Free Available on: Website, iPhone, Android
Best for investing and budget
By combining money management tools with a full listing of your investment accounts, Personal Capital provides a broad financial picture in a single application, says Jim Breune, editor of NetBanker.com, which covers online financial tools.
Personal Capital offers fee-based financial advice, but you don't need to buy in to use its website and mobile app.
Follow your investments in real time with an app.
Mobile offerings vary by brokerage (Fidelity's version is still the most downloaded), but most also let you check news and quotes, says Brett DiDonato of OnlineBrokerRev.com.
Price: Free Available on: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone
A treasure trove of financial info. Track your investments in real time or use interactive charts to get more detailed data about their performance.