Markets Tepid as Investors Await Fed Minutes

Investors seem to be sitting on the edge of their seats, anxiously awaiting the release of the Fed's minutes. This afternoon, the Federal Reserve will release minutes of the most recent Open Market Committee meeting. And why would investors care? These minutes could be indicate whether the Fed will announce a third round of quantitative easing, a move that would boost investors' confidence. As of 1:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) had fallen 0.3% while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) had actually gained a (very) slight 0.04%.

While the Fed minutes seem to be taking center stage, several other storylines are helping guide markets today. We are just entering earnings season, with almost all components still set to release their second-quarter earnings over the next month or so. So far, Alcoa announced it had beat projections on Monday, only to plunge 4% yesterday. JPMorgan Chase reports on Friday, and expectations are low following the bank's rocky quarter. These announcements will demonstrate how economic turmoil in Europe and slowing growth in Asia are affecting American companies, so be sure to stay tuned.

Dow in focus
With oil prices rising 2.78%, it is no surprise that ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Chevron climbed near the top of the Dow today, posting gains of 1.1% and 1.44%, respectively. Oil rebounded after closing at its lowest point in more than a week yesterday. The gains seem to be sectorwide, as energy companies are up across the board. Investors will learn more about these companies' recent performance when each releases earnings near the end of July.

The Dow's twin banks also surged, with Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) rising 2.17% and JPMorgan growing 1.11%. Bernstein analyst John McDonald cut his 2013 earnings target for the bank to $0.90 from $1.00, projecting the continuation of Bank of America's failure to surpass the $1.00 mark since 2007. According Thomson Reuters, the current analyst consensus for 2013 earnings is $0.97 per share. While certainly better off now than in 2009 and 2010, when it posted full-year losses, the maligned bank has yet to prove to investors that it is ready to grow again, although today's rise suggests otherwise. JPMorgan is reportedly seeking to claw back millions of dollars in bonuses from executives involved in the bank's recent fiasco, perhaps attempting to prove to investors that the bank will not let those responsible off the hook. Many critics are calling for the claw backs to include CEO Jamie Dimon, who has come under even more scrutiny as of late.

Leading the Dow's losers, DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) has dropped 1.9% so far today. The company has been suffering lately, posting three triple-digit losses in the last week and a half after coming under fire from Monsanto. Monsanto claims that DuPont did not disclose all information about the effectiveness of its engineered soybean seeds. This claim comes on top of Monsanto's existing lawsuit against DuPont, which accused DuPont of stealing genetic traits in Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops.

With more news moving Dow components every day, it is important for investors to take a long-term perspective. The Motley Fool has analyzed all companies in the blue chip index and found three that stand out from their peers. To learn more, be sure to read The Motley Fool's latest special report: "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's free, so claim your copy today.

Fool contributor Charlie Kannel owns no shares of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, ExxonMobil, and JPMorgan Chase. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron and creating a modified stock repair against synthetic long position in Monsanto. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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