Markets drifted lower ahead of the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting. Continually disappointed by the Ben Bernanke and Co.'s lack of action in the past, today is more of the same for investors.
Despite sounding increasingly bearish while citing the coming fiscal cliff and the eurozone crisis as looming threats, no new countermeasures appear forthcoming. With unemployment stuck above 8% (and little improvement forecast for the rest of 2012), Fed policymakers bafflingly continue to sit on their hands. How does that old saying go -- something about fiddling while Rome burns?
Let's see how the three major indexes are faring after the Fed's release and take a closer look at the today's newsmakers.
|Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI )
Source: Yahoo! Finance as of 2:20 p.m.
The Nasdaq continues to show greater weakness than the Dow and S&P 500, but all three major indexes are trading noticeably lower. Only six of the Dow's 30 components are showing gains, including the two members of big oil, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) . Oil prices jumped over 2% to above $86 a barrel, and natural gas is showing an even greater 4% move. Exxon is the U.S.' largest natural gas producer, so it isn't surprising that that its 1.2% gain is topping Chevron's 0.8% advance.
Notable Dow losers include defense contractors Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) , which are both down over 2%. A large part of the fiscal cliff mentioned earlier is automatic defense-spending cuts; investors can blame those on Congress and its inability to agree on a debt-reduction deal. Both companies have won deals lately -- Boeing scored a $9.2 billion order from General Electric's plane leasing business and United Technologies subsidiary Sikorsky notched an $8.5 billion Blackhawk helicopter order from the Army and Navy.
However, it's clear that November's elections will weigh on defense contractors. Unless Congress can get its act together, the whole industry could face massive cuts. However, there are other stocks whose futures are tied to whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is in the White House. The Motley Fool's new special free report, "These Stocks Could Skyrocket After the 2012 Presidential Election," highlights unique ways to profit from the election -- if you buy the right stocks before the next president's term begins. Click here to download it for FREE.