Yesterday's Federal Reserve announcement and news conference turned out to be largely a non-event, especially for those looking for innovative proposals to jump-start a flagging economy. After trying to rebound from yesterday's losses, the stock market this morning gave up its gains and turned lower, as a host of news appeared to confirm worries about economic growth around the world. Although Spain managed to get some much-needed sovereign debt auctioned off, weakness in the manufacturing sectors in both China and Germany appear troubling. By 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down 14 points to 12,810 after having fallen as much as 40 points earlier in the day.
Merck (NYSE: MRK ) rose more than 1% after reports from Indian news sources that the company may be looking to buy privately held Micro Labs, an Indian company that makes pharmaceutical ingredients. With the future of health care in the U.S. uncertain, Merck and its peers are increasingly looking to emerging markets like India for potential growth opportunities. It's unlikely, though, that an acquisition this small would have this large an impact on Merck.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , on the other hand, fell almost 2%. Clearly, weakness in the manufacturing sector strikes near the core of Alcoa's business. Investors are also getting impatient with the aluminum maker, with a lawsuit coming earlier this week from a shareholder who said that the company didn't adequately look into bribery allegations. For Alcoa to start performing well, it badly needs signs of global economic weakness to go away.
Finally, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) were both lower as oil continued its recent plunge. Crude is now approaching the $80-per-barrel level, as investors fear a loss of demand if industrial activity truly does begin to slow. The declines in both stocks have been less severe than crude's moves, however, suggesting at least some belief that oil could rebound in the near future.
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