The Federal Open Market Committee released the minutes from its most recent meeting Wednesday, and investors didn't like what they read. Fed policymakers were inconclusive about when they'll begin to pare back on their $85 billion a month bond-buying economic stimulus program. They did say they expect it to happen "in coming months," but the market was looking for more clarity.
In response, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 66 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dropped 6, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) lost 10 points.
Earnings season is near an end, and some big retailers moved on their quarterly report cards.
J.C. Penney (JCP) jumped 8 percent. Its loss was worse than expected, but the company sees some positive sales trends. Analysts say the report shows Penney will survive -– which had been in doubt this summer -– but not thrive.
And La-Z-Boy (LZB) rallied 10 percent on an earnings beat and a 50 percent jump in its dividend. But Lowe's (LOW) fell 6 percent. Its net missed expectations and the numbers show it still has a lot of home improvement to do before it can catch up to Home Depot (HD).
And food maker J.M. Smucker (SJM) lost 6 percent after warning about sales. The company, best known for its jellies, also makes Jif peanut butter and Folgers coffee. This comes after disappointing results recently from other big food makers, Kellogg (K) and Campbell's Soup (CPB).
Other Stocks of Note:
Yahoo (YHOO) rose 3 percent. It plans to buy back an additional $5 billion of its stock.
Priceline (PCLN) , up 2 percent on a Goldman Sachs recommendation. It now trades at $1,145 a share.
Tesla (TSLA) lost 4 percent on concern that sales may be slowing.
And for the second day in a row, stocks in the 3D printing field ended sharply lower. 3D Systems (DDD) and ExOne (XONE) each lost at least 7 percent, and Voxeljet (VJET) slid another 32 percent. Voxeljet traded as high as $70 a share on Monday; it closed today below $40.
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims and the producer price index at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates and the Conference Board releases leading indicators for October at 10 a.m.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly results:
Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)
Bon-Ton Stores (BONT)
Dollar Tree (DLTR)
Perry Ellis International (PERY)
Ross Stores (ROST)
Sears Holdings (SHLD)
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.