Tuesday continued a tough week on Wall Street, with indexes moving lower again. A high reading on producer prices signaled that inflation could be a persistent problem, and now, market participants are waiting to see what the Federal Reserve will say about monetary policy going forward. The S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.71%), Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.93%), and Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC -0.81%) were all down on the day, although they finished well above their worst levels.

Index

Daily Percentage Change

Daily Point Change

Dow

(0.30%)

(107)

S&P 500

(0.75%)

(35)

Nasdaq

(1.14%)

(176)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Amid inflation concerns, investors seemed to gravitate toward companies associated with hard assets. That's a big part of how Alcoa (AA -2.05%), ArcelorMittal (MT -1.18%), and EQT (EQT 1.50%) managed to post gains on Tuesday. Below, we'll look more closely at these names to see why investors have confidence in their future prospects.

Alcoa shines

Alcoa's stock rose almost 6%. The aluminum specialist had a number of things going well for it today.

First, the company got word that its stock will join the S&P MidCap 400 index. Alcoa will fill the spot to be left vacant by Hill-Rom Holdings, whose acquisition was finalized today.

Person looking at production floor with rolls of aluminum.

Image source: Getty Images.

In addition, Alcoa announced that it has purchased group annuity contracts in order to reduce the risk levels in its pension plans. Employers have increasingly looked for ways to ensure that they can meet future pension obligations to workers, and annuities have been one way to provide for future pension payments.

Finally, investors seemed to be comfortable with Alcoa's decision earlier this week to close its smelter operations in the Washington town of Wenatchee. The move follows decisions to restart offshore smelters, with the decision suggesting that cost and market factors might be justifying a shift in Alcoa's production footprint.

The whole market looks forward to Alcoa's earnings, which are due out in early January. Whatever the aluminum company says could have implications for the entire materials sector.

Steeling its resolve

Elsewhere, shares of ArcelorMittal were up nearly 7%. The steelmaker has made waves as investors look for smart infrastructure plays.

The most immediate news affecting ArcelorMittal involved a capital move. The steelmaker repurchased some of its convertible debt, entering into privately negotiated transactions with certain holders. That might not seem to have much to do with the stock, but as part of the deal, ArcelorMittal said it would buy its own stock to unwind hedge positions associated with the convertible debt.

ArcelorMittal made a huge move in selling its U.S. steelmaking assets to Cleveland-Cliffs earlier this year, but it remains a global giant in steel production. That should bode well as projects to fix roads, bridges, and other infrastructure assets get started.

A big buy

Finally, shares of EQT rose 6%. The natural gas energy company made two shareholder-friendly moves.

First, the company announced a $1 billion buyback. With clean energy demand raising interest in natural gas, EQT expects to have ample cash flow.

In addition, EQT reinstated its regular dividend. At $0.125 per share every quarter, EQT will have a yield of less than 2.5%, but shareholders are nevertheless pleased to see capital flowing back to them.

Many see natural gas playing a role even as a transition to renewable energy takes place. If that's the case, EQT could continue to benefit.

Watch materials

When prices are going up, companies that sell goods that are in demand often benefit. That's a good reason to keep your eyes on EQT, ArcelorMittal, and Alcoa going forward.