Having propelled the stock market to record after record, investors have gotten used to seeing every small bit of news as reason for a big market move. But over the long haul, muted days like today are much more typical as a lack of big-picture news forces investors to focus more on individual companies. Although many analysts pointed to the ongoing debate about what the Federal Reserve should do next as the reason for the market's ambivalence this morning, the simpler explanation is that in the absence of major news, there's little reason for prices to change. By 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) were down about four points, while the S&P 500 had risen a fraction of a point.
Within the Dow, most stocks are similarly quiet. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) has fallen 0.3% as the company prepares for tomorrow's annual shareholder meeting, at which investors will determine the fate of chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. With many investors calling for Dimon to relinquish his dual leadership roles, the stock has nevertheless soared recently, reflecting skepticism that major institutional investors will do anything to change the course that has led to a strong recovery for the bank despite obstacles including the "London Whale" scandal.
But outside the Dow, merger-and-acquisition news has dominated the headlines. Yahoo! will spend $1.1 billion to buy Tumblr in a deal that could boost the online-search company's reach into the social-media realm. Smaller companies have seen much more dramatic moves. Pactera Technology (NASDAQ: PACT ) has skyrocketed 30% after the IT services and consulting company got an offer to go private for $7.50 per share. Even after the jump, shares are trading about 10% below that offer, suggesting that investors aren't certain the deal will go through.
Finally, Chinese solar company JA Solar (NASDAQ: JASO ) has spiked 47% after announcing better-than-expected solar-cell shipments in its first-quarter report. Although many of its Chinese peers have come under pressure from extensive debt, JA Solar pointed to strength in sales to Japan in helping the company beat its initial forecast for deliveries during the quarter. Nevertheless, JA Solar still faces a tough road ahead in dealing with big net losses and weak margins, and increased volume will only go so far in remedying the company's woes without overall improvement in industry pricing conditions.