How the Fed Goosed the Dow Higher

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As the economy has improved, many investors have feared that the Federal Reserve would start to signal its eventual exit from its extraordinary quantitative easing measures and its loose monetary policy. Yet at least for now, the Fed is showing few signs of that happening anytime soon, as its latest announcement this afternoon made it clear that the policymaking body wouldn't let up on its stimulus moves until economic gains have become sustainable.

Stocks moved higher on that news, and although major indexes didn't manage to score new records, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) rose 56 points, and the broader market rose even more, leaving the S&P 500 within about six points of a new all-time high.

Dow-component banking giants JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) put in mixed performances, with JPMorgan falling slightly but B of A climbing more than half a percent. Late yesterday, mortgage giant Freddie Mac sued 15 international banking institutions, including JPMorgan and B of A, in connection with the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal that first emerged last summer. Given how important interest rates are to the government-sponsored enterprise, which buys mortgages from banks and repackages them into mortgage-backed securities, Freddie Mac stands to have lost a great deal from alleged manipulation of rates.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) fell 0.7%, giving back some of the ground it gained yesterday. The company's novel approach at trying to get video content providers to accept payments based on actual viewership rather than on a per-subscriber basis could disrupt the industry, but even if it succeeds, Verizon would likely reap the benefits more than its customers would.

Finally, outside the Dow, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL  ) finished the regular session up slightly but then plunged 5% to 7% in after-hours trade immediately after releasing its quarterly earnings report. It missed earnings estimates by a penny, but worse was a shortfall of more than 4% in revenue compared to what analysts had expected to see. Its hardware systems segment fell the most sharply, with sales down 23%. Services revenue also fell 8%, while sales from new software licenses and cloud-based software subscriptions dropped 2%. For Oracle, the final number is the most important, as it fell well short of the company's own projections for growth of 3% to 13% and shows the huge level of competition in the space right now.

Even with the LIBOR scandal hanging over its head, Bank of America’s stock doubled in 2012. Is there more yet to come? With significant challenges still ahead, it’s critical to have a solid understanding of this megabank before adding it to your portfolio. Get the latest from our premium research report on the bank, in which our top financial analysts provide their insight on B of A's prospects going forward. Click here now to claim your copy.

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