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.
Best Buy (BBY) slid 11 percent. Its third quarter earnings were fine, but the company warned that its profit margin during the holidays could take a hit. Even after today's stumble, Best Buy shares have nearly tripled in price over the past year.
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:
Deere & Co. (DE)
J.C. Penney (JCP)
J.M. Smucker (SJM)
L Brands (LTD)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.