Poor IBM Earnings and China Contraction News Slam Dow

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Whether you're freezing your glutes off commuting to work, tailgating at one of the outdoor NHL games, or just surviving in your apartment during Polar Vortex Part II, the slow MLK holiday-shortened holiday week saw stocks drop as much as the temperature -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  plummeted nearly 600 points in four days.

1. Central bank stimulus fears smacked global stocks
Why are stocks suddenly falling in January? Forget all the Tim Tebow conspiracy theories you've been hearing. One of the main drivers of 2013's stock market highs was the economic stimulus coming from the Federal Reserve, spending $85 billion monthly on long-term bonds to keep interest rates low -- which encouraged borrowing and taking risks by buying stocks. But now that the central bank is reducing stimulus with the U.S. economy picking up, investors are wondering how it's all going to work out for corporate profits and stocks. So far, it's not looking good. But you'll hear more during this week's big two-day Fed meeting (Ben Bernanke's last one).

2. Fourth-quarter earnings winners ...
Starbucks
(NASDAQ: SBUX  ) got an extra espresso shot of earnings at the end of the year as caffeine-dependent shoppers tossed back those seasonal red cups of mocha magic. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) earnings topped expectations, but investors were even more tuned in to the fact that the company added an Emmy-worthy 2.3 million subscribers last quarter. And Verizon Communications earnings beat forecasts thanks to wider margins (aka charging you a lot more than they used to).

3. ... And fourth-quarter earnings losers
McDonald's
 earnings were as bland as Burger King French fries after consumers failed to get hooked on new menu items, ending 2013 with a Ronald McDonald frown. And IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) sold its server business to China's Lenovo, but the (former?) tech mammoth suffered its worst drop in hardware computer revenues in four years.
 
4. Chinese econ news scared investors
Hold the chopsticks -- because for the first time in six months, the honorable Chinese manufacturing sector shrank. China's impressive 7%-10% annual growth has driven global growth the past decade (ours is around 2%-3% GDP growth), so the surprise economic downer spooked markets globally at the end of the week. It may be an anomaly, but Wall Street sold off risky assets (stocks) for safer alternatives (bonds) in response.

What MarketSnacks is checking out this week:
  • Monday: New home sales; earnings: Caterpillar
  • Tuesday: The two-day Fed meeting begins; earnings: AT&T, Yahoo!, Ford
  • Wednesday: Bernanke speaks; earnings: Facebook, JetBlue
  • Thursday: US. .GDP reading; earnings: Amazon.com, Google, UPS
  • Friday: Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey; earnings: MasterCard, Chevron
MarketSnacks Fact of the Day: About 10% of American adults received a Starbucks gift card this holiday season. Wow.

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