Nervous Investors Hold Markets Down

This afternoon at 2 p.m. EDT, the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting minutes are scheduled to be released. Over the past few months, as the Fed has begun to signal a possible slowing of its bond-buying program, investors have become nervous and sold off stocks and bonds. In the aftermath, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and S&P 500 had both fallen nearly 5% from their all-time highs, and Treasury Bond yields had jumped dramatically higher as investors began to anticipate rising rates.

The rising T-Bill yields have caused mortgage interest rates to rise as well. A housing-related report released today showed that mortgage activity declined by 3% last week, which some are blaming on higher interest rates. While that may be the case, remember that last week was a short holiday week for most Americans, which may also explain the decline. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the markets react to the minutes today and where interest rate go from here.

As of 12:55 p.m. EDT the Dow is just slightly lower, down 22 points, or 0.15%, while the S&P 500 is down 0.11% and the Nasdaq is up 0.2%. There's much more red than green on the Dow's big board right now, so let's take a look at a few of the losers.

Shares of Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) are down 0.4%, likely due to the decline in mortgage activity last week. The home improvement store performs better when housing prices are moving higher and there is a good flow within the housing industry. As more homes are sold, whether they are new or pre-owned, Home Depot will likely see increased foot traffic in its stores as the new owners change and customize their homes.

Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC  ) 1.3% loss likely owes to the slowing mortgage business as well. Since the financial crisis ended and the big banks came under tougher regulations and restrictions, we have seen Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) move more into the mortgage business and reduce their exposure to other parts of banking and investing. Both the Dow's banking stocks now rely heavily on the revenue they derive from the mortgages, so if the business begins to falter, we will likely see revenue and profits from the large banks slow and even decline. Shares of JPMorgan are down 0.5% at the time of writing.

Lastly, shares of American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) are down 2%, leading all Dow losers downward despite a lack of news. Butthe stock did just hit a fresh 52-week high of $78.61 yesterday, and we may be seeing investors pulling out of the stock, believing it has peaked. Over the next few weeks or months, it may hover near where it is today.

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