Stocks took a bit of a breather Tuesday on new evidence the harsh winter weather has been taking a toll on the economy. Mother Nature's latest casualty: the housing sector. A new report on homebuilding shows that confidence fell sharply in February, and the weather was to blame. Manufacturing activity in the New York region was also hurt by the frigid temperatures in February.
After posting the strongest week in a year, stocks ended the day mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 24 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 2, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 29 points.
Coca-Cola (KO) was the biggest drag among the blue chips. Its fourth quarter profit fell and revenue was below consensus. The stock fizzled 3.8 percent.
Another big loser on the day was 1-800-Flowers.com (FLWS). It too can blame Mother Nature. The cold weather in the Northeast botched many of its Valentine's Day deliveries. There was no love for the stock that fell 6 percent.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Some merger and acquisition news heated things up. Actavis (ACT) wants to buy Forest Laboratories (FRX) for $25 billion. Actavis shares were up 5 percent while Forest Labs gained more than 27 percent. The announcement gave a boost to activist investor Carl Icahn, a major shareholder in Forest Labs.
And a report emerged that Tesla's Elon Musk met with Apple's head of mergers and acquisitions last year increasing speculation Apple (AAPL) may be eyeing Tesla Motors (TSLA). Shares in the electric carmaker hit an all-time high closing at $203.70 a share. The stock has been on a tear over the past year: It's up a whopping 417 percent.
Shares of Blackberry (BBRY) also rose more than 5 percent. Hedge fund honcho Dan Loeb revealed he has a $10 million stake in the company.
Several companies benefited from some upgrades. Lululemon Athletica (LULU) gained almost 1 percent on a thumbs up from Oppenheimer.
Mattressmaker Tempur Sealy International (TPX) got a small bounce of less than 1 percent on a Piper Jaffray (PJC) upgrade. And Big Lots (BIG) also rallied nearly 2 percent on an upgrade.
Earnings were mainly disappointing:
Waste Management (WM), 4.5 and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) both traded lower by about 4½ percent on the back of their results, and Medtronic (MDT) dropped more than 1 percent
And lastly, binge viewing still seems to be working for Netflix. On the first trading day since the premiere of season 2 of "House of Cards," Netflix (NFLX) shares closed marginally higher.
What to Watch Wednesday:
At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time the Commerce Department reports housing starts for January, and the Labor Department reports producer prices for January.
The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its January policy-setting meeting at 2 p.m.
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial statements:
Jack in the Box (JACK)
Six Flags (SIX)
Tesla Motors (TSLA)
Williams Cos. (WMB)