In a nutshell, you can sum up today's market action like this: China tried to throw a party, but Ben Bernanke ended up spoiling the mood. With China cutting interest rates overnight, investors hoped that the Federal Reserve might signal that it would follow suit with further easing of monetary policy of its own. But instead, the Fed not only failed to give hints that it would ease but also suggested stricter capital requirements for banks, and so after having gained almost 140 points early in the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) had to settle for a 46-point rise, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished down on the day.
Despite the Dow's overall gains, several stocks within the Dow didn't do well. The big loser on the day was Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , which gave up part of its big gains yesterday and fell nearly 3%. The Fed's proposal would force B of A and other big banks to raise their capital reserves to 6% of assets, up from the current minimum of 4%. Even though B of A has been working hard to raise capital by selling off non-core assets, the higher standard would force it to go even further to build reserves and hamper its ability to boost its profits.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) was also among the Dow's losers, falling about 1.3%. Between strategic announcements, job cuts, and new initiatives, HP has been pulling out all the stops in its effort to restructure and get back some of its past growth. But impatient investors see other companies making steps forward and wonder when HP's moves will finally bear fruit in the form of a higher stock price. So far, that hasn't happened.
Finally, AT&T (NYSE: T ) lost more than 1% after Virgin Mobile announced that it will offer a no-contract iPhone starting June 29. Although the iPhone's initial price won't be subsidized, Virgin's $30-per-month plan is a big discount compared with rates that Verizon and AT&T charge. Virgin has the Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) network behind its service, and sales will count toward Sprint's iPhone purchase obligations, so the move is a likely win for Sprint. But the big question is whether buyers will be willing to pay a whole lot more upfront -- $649 for an iPhone 4S, versus $199 from carriers requiring two-year contracts -- in exchange for the flexibility of not having a long-term obligation.
Don't be down
Uncertainty always holds back some stocks, even when the market's having a good rally. A big source of uncertainty for investors this year is the coming presidential election, but we've identified some stocks we think are poised to benefit once November ends. Discover the names of these companies in our brand-new special report, "Stocks That Could Skyrocket After the 2012 Presidential Election." Downloading a free copy is as easy as a click, so do it right now.