Just when the markets seem to start humming along smoothly and lulling investors into a false sense of security, a day like today sneaks up and catches investors off-guard. The jarring news that sent stocks lower today came courtesy of the newly released Federal Reserve minutes, which showed disagreement over how long to continue quantitative easing measures. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) shed 108 points, or 0.77%, to close at 13,927.
One of the few bright spots in the Dow Wednesday, Merck (NYSE: MRK ) shares gained 1% as investors applauded a joint venture with South Korean pharmaceutical company Samsung Bioepis. Joint ventures are common in the health-care sector, and this new collaboration allows Merck to market drugs in the "biosimilars" market, a type of medicine that hasn't yet officially made its debut in the United States.
Meanwhile, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) was hit hard by the release of the Fed minutes, ending near the bottom of the Dow in sliding by 3.2%. Any continuation of quantitative easing policies would theoretically help provide support to the macroeconomy, and as a company with massive amounts of mortgages on its books, B of A has a vested interest in seeing widespread stability.
When it comes to more newfangled businesses, electric-car producer Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) doesn't disappoint. However, when it comes to corporate earnings, Tesla does disappoint, or at least it did today. Falling 1.9% during the day, the stock plummeted as much as 7% in aftermarket trades, as the company lost $0.78 per share in the fourth quarter, a bit worse than the $0.65 loss Wall Street expected. The good news: Tesla expects to finally make some money this quarter.
Finally, shares in Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) continued their epic stumble today, falling 2.4% to settle below $450 a share. This drop comes a day after the company announced that it was the victim of an enigmatic hacking attack. Reports today that Chinese supplier Foxconn has frozen hiring on assembly lines may spark further worries that product demand is weakening.
Despite its recent stumbles, there's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded, with more than 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple and what opportunities are left for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.