Stocks Climb and Gold Slips Ahead of Fed Announcement

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

U.S. stock markets moved slightly higher today as the Federal Reserve began a two-day policy meeting. Tomorrow, investors are expecting to hear that the Fed will pare back its $85 billion-per-month bond-buying program, slowly pulling some of its stimulus from the economy. The market has been expecting this for months, but tomorrow the details will come to light. Late in today's trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up 0.23%, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) has gained 0.44%, gold is down 0.52%, and oil has dropped 1.04%.

The big news this morning came from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) , which increased its dividend by 22% to $0.28 per share and announced a $40 billion stock buyback program. The decline of the PC market and the failure of the Surface tablet to gain traction have been widely covered by the media, but let's not forget that Microsoft is still a cash cow. In the fiscal year ending June 30, the company generated $28.8 billion in operating cash and paid $7.5 billion in dividends to shareholders. Those aren't bad numbers for a company that's supposedly struggling to stay relevant. 

Fellow PC juggernaut Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) is up 1.8% on the market today after getting another cheery report from an analyst. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Kevin Cassidy reiterated a buy rating and a $28 price target because he thinks the company will continue to gain share in tablets and convertibles with its 22 nanometer Bay Trail chips. The interesting developments will come with the 14 nm architecture named Quark, which will bring a new generation of speed and power consumption to Intel. That could allow the company to steal share in tablets and smartphones, which is where the company has fallen behind in recent years. 

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) has dropped 1.3% today for the worst performance on the Dow. There wasn't and major news today, but open enrollment for health care plans begins on Oct. 1, and investors don't know exactly how that will impact the company's earnings. The stock has become volatile ahead of Obamacare's implementation, but keep in mind that more people should be insured next year, which should help the insurance industry as a whole.

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