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The markets saw a second straight day of big gains Tuesday, ahead of pivotal statements by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tomorrow on the future of monetary policy. While the chairman may announce the gradual tapering of quantitative-easing efforts on Wednesday, no jarring shifts in policy are expected until the unemployment rate improves markedly from its current 7.6% level. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) advanced 12 points, or 0.8%, to close at 1,651 today, and is up nearly 16% year to date. But that didn't stop three of its components from posting big ol' outsized losses today.
The first decliner, for-profit education outfit Apollo Group (NASDAQ: APOL ) , lost 3.2% Tuesday, its fourth day of losses in the past five trading sessions. Unfortunately for shareholders, this isn't anything new; the stock is down 40% in the past year and more than 50% in the past three years. Sales have fallen the past two fiscal years, as the government cracks down on the for-profit education industry, demanding higher standards for institutions that benefit from student loans that many aren't able to pay back.
Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) , which specializes in mining for gold and copper, shed 2.5% today, as investors weighed the likelihood and potential impact of Fed tapering should it come to pass Wednesday. Since metals -- especially gold -- are often traded as currency hedges, Newmont's decline today can be chalked up to worries that the Fed will announce tapering efforts. With less currency in circulation than previously anticipated, the dollar will probably be stronger than estimated, reducing gold's value as a hedge for a falling dollar.
Finally, stock in grocer Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) slumped 0.8% as the stock went ex-dividend today. Going ex-dividend means that shareholders on record as of yesterday's close will be eligible for the company's next quarterly dividend payment, which is $0.20 per share. Some short-term investors will buy into a stock going ex-dividend just to qualify for the payment and then sell off as soon as they're no longer required to hold the stock. Today's $0.18 loss is suspiciously close to the $0.20 figure and may be largely attributable to the ex-dividend phenomenon.
Gold has outshined the stock market with strong returns since 2000, but more recently has given way to big declines. The Motley Fool's new free report, "The Best Way to Play Gold Right Now," dissects the recent volatility and provides a guide for gold investing. Click here to read the full report today!