This has been a great year so far for Wall Street: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is already up more than 11% in a year characterized by record-setting highs and massive corporate profits. A bullish market is great, but it can be tougher for investors to stomach disappointing news in the middle of such a run-up. Wednesday's payroll figures -- showing private-sector employment that rose by nearly 160,000 jobs in March -- didn't quite live up to Mr. Market's demands.
Throw in some unwelcome news from the Federal Reserve, and you have the makings of a 100-plus-point drop. The Dow ended 111 points, or 0.8%, lower, at 14,550.
Only 10% of Dow stocks advanced today, and Merck (NYSE: MRK ) ended the day as one of those cherished few. Its 1% rise was good enough for tops in the Dow, as investors flocked to the stock's 3.9% dividend. The market may be cheering encouraging new research from the company, making inroads on a sleep drug that doesn't inhibit patient memory or attention, two common areas that today's sleep aids affect.
Despite paying a 4.1% dividend of its own, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) , regrettably, lacks any promising leads for new life-changing products of its own. Heck, it can barely keep up with its competitors. The stock, down 25% in the past year, fell 1.9% today, after the departing CEO's 2012 remuneration came in at around $19 million. The 10% pay raise came the same year EPS slipped 10%.
But Wednesday's biggest blue-chip decliners were financials: JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) slumped 3% and 2.8%, respectively, on concerns about the private sector's robustness. Perhaps a larger issue concerning the big banks today is the longevity of the Fed's bond-buying program, intended to stabilize a recovering U.S. economy. A top Fed official told an audience today that the central bank may need to ease up on the bond purchases later in the year as the economy strengthens.
Bank of America's stock doubled in 2012 -- but 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. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on B of A, analysts Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and Matt Koppenheffer, financials bureau chief, lift the veil on the bank's operations, including detailing three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Click here now to claim your copy.