Stocks ended significantly lower on Wednesday as existing home sales jumped 6.5 percent to a four-month high, and the released minutes of the Fed’s July Open Market Committee meeting indicating more or less unanimous agreement among central bankers on the need to reduce stimulus spending.
Still, the minutes from last month’s meeting ultimately gave little guidance to the possible timing for such a move, as an agreement over the need to reduce spending was tempered by concerns that September would be too soon to do so. Markets and financial media have been frenetically speculating when “tapering” could begin over the last few months, though the Fed has repeatedly and clearly stated the inflation and unemployment targets that it considers would adequately reflect the improvements it would like to see before asset and securities purchases can be reduced.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 ended 0.58 percent lower to close at 1,642.80, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off by 0.7 percent to 14,897.55, while the NASDAQ dropped 0.38 percent to 3,599.79.
The volatile trading session saw stocks open lower, then rally significantly before eventually shedding gains as the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds jumped nearly 1.5 percent to $2.85.
On the S&P 500, Staples Inc. (SPLS) ended the day on a hefty 15 percent loss after its second quarter earnings report saw the company come up shy on profit expectations as well as reduced guidance for the remainder of the year. Brick-and-mortar services stocks were the biggest drag on the index overall, with significant losses for PetSmart Inc. (PETM) , J.C. Penney Company Inc. (JCP) , Target Corp. (TGT) and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) .
All of the Dow’s components were in the red for the second time this week, with tech shares among the biggest losers, as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) , Intel Corporation (INTC) , and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) all ended the day significantly lower.
Tech and Services shares were also lower on the NASDAQ, with Cisco Systems (CSCO) , Micron Technology (MU) , BlackBerry (BBRY) , Comcast ($CMCS), DIRECTV Inc. (DTV) and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) all dropping on heavy trading.