Confidence Drops as Investors Worry About the Future

There's an awful lot of red on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , which is down 110 points at noon EST. Disappointing news from the likes of Wal-Mart, which cut its fourth-quarter earnings forecast, and MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) , which missed analysts' estimates for the fourth quarter, are clearly upsetting investors. Also instilling fear into the markets is the concern about whether January's rocky start for stocks is a predictor of a market correction for 2014 .

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment indicator showed some improvement at the end of January, clocking in at 81.2 compared to the reading of 80.4 a couple of weeks ago. Overall, though, sentiment has fallen from the more hopeful 82.5 seen at the end of December.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis  weighed in with news about personal income and outlays for December, showing that consumers increased spending by 0.4%, better than the expected 0.2%. Personal income remained stagnant, however, with no change in December from the previous month.

MasterCard disappoints
Payments giant MasterCard is down 4.5% as it reported fourth-quarter earnings one day after rival Visa (NYSE: V  ) . The company missed estimates on earnings per share by $0.03, and revenue estimates by $20 million, but there was still plenty of good news on tap.

Revenue increased 11.6% year over year, with a 14% rise in gross dollar volume and an increase in transactions of 13%. This latter metric mimics Visa's transaction volume of 13%, which is nothing to sneeze at. One issue that may trouble investors might be that MasterCard's operating expenses increased 11% year over year, due to higher marketing expenses; the company also noted increased expenses due to higher rebates and incentives. Visa's expenses rose by only 3% during the same time period.

Both companies repurchased stock during the last quarter of 2013. Visa repurchased 5.5 million shares, for a total of $1.1 billion, and MasterCard bought back 9.8 million of its common shares, for a total of $751 million.

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