US stocks zig-zag as Federal Reserve meets

Stocks zig-zag on Wall Street as the Federal Reserve begins policy meeting; Mosaic plunges

Associated Press
Waiting for Bernanke, stocks plod indecisively
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This July 29, 2013 photo, Trader Michael Conlon rushes across the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. U.S. stock futures rose modestly Tuesday, July 30, 2013, with most investors taking a wait-and-see approach ahead of a two-day Fed policy meeting. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks wandered between small gains and losses on Wall Street Tuesday as the Federal Reserve began a two-day meeting and as companies reported mixed results for the latest quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 22 points, or 0.1 percent, at 15,543 as of 3:45 p.m. Eastern. It was down 42 in early afternoon trading.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up two points, or 0.1 percent, at 1,687.

Technology stocks did better than the rest of the market. Among the four industry sectors that rose in the S&P 500 index, tech rose the most, 0.9 percent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was up 206 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,619. Apple, the biggest component of the index, rose $6.31, or 1.4 percent, to $454.10.

The Mosaic Co., a maker of a key ingredient in crop fertilizers, plunged after a Russian fertilizer company said it would drop out of a cartel that kept prices high. Mosaic fell $9.61, or 18 percent, to $43.35.

Earnings news was mixed.

Coach slumped $4.50, or 8 percent, to $53.34 after the upscale handbag maker reported a 12 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit as its home market of North America remained weak. Coach also said two more executives were leaving the company.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber jumped $1.70, or 10 percent, to $18.74 after reporting that its second-quarter earnings more than doubled. Sales in Latin America rose sharply. Pfizer and Masco also rose after reporting earnings that were better than investors were expecting.

Traders were also keeping a close eye on the Federal Reserve. The central bank began a two-day meeting Tuesday and will release an updated policy statement Wednesday.

"This week it's all about Bernanke and the Fed statement tomorrow," said Bill Strazzullo, chief strategist of Bell Curve Trading. "Stocks need a supportive statement ... to go higher. That is the key driver."

The Federal Reserve has been buying $85 billion in bonds every month to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing and hiring. The Fed has said it might start to pull back on the stimulus later this year if the economy continues to improve, but the timing remains uncertain.

The Fed has also kept its benchmark short-term interest rate close to zero and has said it would stay there until the unemployment rate dips below 6.5 percent. The rate currently stands at 7.6 percent.

Crude oil fell $1.47 to $103.08 a barrel in New York. The price of gold fell $4.40 to $1,324 an ounce. The dollar edged higher against the euro and the Japanese yen.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged from late Monday at 2.60 percent. The yield is a benchmark for many kinds of loans including home mortgages.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Masco jumped $1.33, or 6.7 percent. The home furnishings company posted earnings that beat the forecasts of financial analysts as the company benefited from a surge in home construction.

— Pfizer rose 19 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $29.73 after the pharmaceutical company reported that its income more than quadrupled, helped by the sale of its animal health business.

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