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Most analysts think the stock market's in a wait-and-see mode as the summer draws to a close and traders take their last chance at a break before the typical pickup in volume that comes after Labor Day. But as Fool UK's Roland Head observed earlier today, the market is also waiting for something very specific: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's latest pronouncements on the economy, which he will share at his annual speech from Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday. In advance of that, stocks are mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) down 24 points just after 10:45 a.m. EDT, but the Nasdaq up on the day.
Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) was among the Dow's biggest losers, falling about three-quarters of a percent. With Tropical Storm Isaac churning in the Gulf and expected to reach hurricane strength soon, the insurer is clearly hoping to avoid the devastation that 2011 brought to its bottom line. If the storm is worse than expected, it could hurt the bullish case for Travelers, which sent the stock to 52-week highs last week.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) dropped more than 1% on news that Russian giant RUSAL plans to reduce its production capacity by 3% at the end of the year. Low prices for aluminum are taking their toll throughout the industry, and Alcoa's long-term prospects depend on a turnaround in the underlying aluminum market.
Finally, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) was among the Dow's worst performers, falling about 1.25%. News that M&T Bank will acquire Hudson City Bancorp (Nasdaq: HCBK ) wasn't enough to lift the entire financial sector, as big banks will still have to struggle with a challenging macroeconomic environment with plenty of threats to the global economy. Only once B of A and its peers can find ways to kick-start their growth engines should you expect to see their shares start rising strongly.
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