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Investors probably heard what they wanted to hear today, but the markets declined regardless. The Federal Reserve has decided to maintain its stimulus programs for the time being, even though it's seeing signs that the economy is improving. So, essentially, the cheap-money train continues, and economic activity appears better than it was even just a few months ago.
So why did the markets decline?
Well, although Ben Bernanke told investors the central bank will continue with its bond-buying program for some time, he did say that if the economy continues along its current path and meets the goals the Fed has set, the QE3 stimulus program will soon begin to taper off. Those comments sent fear throughout the markets, and a massive sell-off followed during the closing hour of trading today.
As the closing bell rang, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) had lost 206 points or 1.35% and now sits at 15,112. Today's 200-point move also marked the seventh consecutive day the blue-chip average has ended the day either up or down more than 100 points. The S&P 500 also tanked today by 1.39%, and the Nasdaq dropped by 1.12%. All of the Dow's 30 components ended the session in the red today as the bearish tide pulled all stocks lower, but a few of the biggest losers declined more because of individual stories.
Shares of United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) fell 2.07% today after it was announced that the company will be forced to pay $473 million because of contract manipulation. A U.S. District Court judge found the company guilty of inappropriately winning contracts from the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s. Investors should just consider this a single skeleton pulled from the closest and shouldn't worry about the company moving forward. United Technologies will pay the fine, and this will all be over shortly.
Shares of Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) also moved lower today by 1.22% despite yesterday's announcement that the company has completed a project that will allow it to soon quadruple the amount of third-generation aluminum-lithium alloys it can produce. These alloys are popular in the aerospace industry because they're lightweight and improve aircraft fuel efficiency. But the project and announcement may have been all for nothing, because, as The Wall Street Journal recently noted, new aircraft is made up of about 50% composite material and only about 20% aluminum. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out and whether aluminum can overtake composites in the aircraft industry.
Lastly, shares of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) fell 1.83% as investors consider the potential threat that the collaboration between Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD ) and ARM Holdings may have on Intel's core business. Yesterday it was announced that AMD will use parts from ARM Holdings to build a server microprocessor that could seriously threaten Intel's stranglehold on this market.
When it comes to dominating markets, it doesn't get much better than Intel's position in the PC microprocessor arena. However, that market is maturing, and Intel finds itself in a precarious situation longer term if it doesn't find new avenues for growth. In this premium research report on Intel, a Motley Fool analyst runs through all of the key topics investors should understand about the chip giant. Click here now to learn more.