Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) opened flat today and has essentially stayed flat an hour and a half into trading, floating back and forth, but so far not straying too far from its opening price of $43.36: also yesterday's closing price. With the markets down and the rest of the Big Four banks seemingly heading in the same direction, what can we chalk this lackadaisical-to-gloomy mood up to?
What it isn't
It's certainly not lousy second-quarter earnings. Last Friday, Wells reported record quarterly net income: $5.5 billion, up 19% year over year. Revenue growth could have been better, it's true: up a mere 1% over the same period last year. But it's unlikely investors would be quibbling too much about that, especially with the kind of income growth Wells is exhibiting.
Otherwise, Ben Bernanke has already begun giving what is likely to be his final monetary policy report to Congress as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Today he testifies to the House Committee on Financial Services, and tomorrow he gives a repeat performance to the Senate banking committee.
Foolish bottom line
This is no doubt keeping stocks in general from going too far in either direction, Wells included. As the time of writing, Bernanke is already very likely being grilled on the Fed's plans to taper quantitative easing.
He announced a possible timeline back in June, which roiled markets worldwide. And while the recent release of the minutes of the meeting behind that announcement smoothed some of the turmoil, investors are still parsing every word and sentence that comes out of the chairman's mouth as relates to the rollback of QE.
As far as I can tell, there's no word yet on anything Bernanke has or hasn't said to Congress, but it almost doesn't matter: Just the fact that he's giving testimony is setting investors on edge. Of course, QE has to go sooner or later, and markets will eventually have to return to a life without easy central-bank money.
But it's like going to the doctor for something you're worried about: the anticipation is worse than the knowing. So stop worrying about monetary policy, stop checking your stocks every day, and tune out the market noise. Instead, tune in to the fundamentals of the companies you're invested in. Your broker won't thank you, but your portfolio will.
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