Unable to maintain the ecstatic momentum unleashed by outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s announcement ahead of Wednesday’s closing bell that the Central Bank’s fiscal stimulus program was to remain unchanged for the time being, stocks ended the day mostly lower on Thursday.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was off by 0.18 percent to 1,722.34 points, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.25 percent lower at 15,636.55. The NASDAQ added a modest but respectable 0.15 percent, finishing the day at 3,789.38.
Sept. 18's unexpected announcement of the continuance of the quantitative easing program also sent gold on a path to its highest one-day gain in nearly five years, while Treasury yields plummeted from recent two-year highs.
While Bernanke’s announcement about the Fed move, or lack thereof, was widely seen as surprising, it was largely keeping in line with statements the Chairman has been making all year, to the effect that only a substantial improvement in the US economy would provide the proper context in which to commence the “taper.”
As if on cue, the day’s only economic data was the Housing Department’s August existing home sales figures, which rose 1.7 percent during the recently ended month, the highest level in almost 7 years, and besting expectations of a 2.6 percent drop.
On the S&P 500, regional and money center bank stocks took a hit from the Fed’s announcement, with Region’s Financial Corp. (RF) , Huntington Bancshares ($HBAN), and Wells Fargo ($WFC) all ending the day lower on heavy trading. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) dropped over a percent after announcing that it would pay nearly $1 billion to settle claims related to last summer’s “London Whale” trading scandal.
The Dow saw most components in the red, with Unitedhealth Group (UNH) taking the heaviest loss, down over 3 percent. Home Depot (HD) ended 1.5 percent higher in reaction to the housing sales news.
The NASDAQ was higher by the closing bell, with tech shares taking the lead; Groupon Inc (GRPN) , Apple (AAPL) , and Yahoo! (YHOO) all added substantially. Meanwhile, Tesla Motors (TSLA) ended the day another 7 percent higher after an upgrade from Deutsche Bank (DB) .