After reaching a new five-year high yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) retreated late in the session after a Federal Reserve meeting, falling 108 points, or 0.8%, on the day. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were down sharply as well, both dropping by more than 1.2%.
The Fed released the minutes from its Open Market Committee meeting at 2 p.m., which revealed that many of the committee's members favored stopping or slowing down the central bank's bond-buying program to control costs incurred from the asset purchases. Since the Fed first began its quantitative easing program in 2008, the market has consistently cheered the its stimulus actions, which feed money into the economy and the stock market. So it's not a surprise to see the market heading south now that the Fed may be getting cold feet. Chairman Ben Bernanke had before said that the bond buying will continue until unemployment goes down to 6.5% or inflation increases significantly.
Housing starts in January also disappointed, falling 8.5% to 890,000 from 973,000 in December. Still, the January total was improved from a year ago, and the housing market appears to be on the right track as building permits were better than expected.
For the second day in a row, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) was the biggest loser in the Dow as reports came in that the worldwide aluminum glut seems to be getting worse. Inventories in a key area of China grew by about 50% to 1.2 million metric tons. Demand in the world's No. 2 economy, one of Alcoa's primary's markets, has not kept up with the increased supply, and Alcoa has struggled to turn a profit lately as prices have been forced down from the excess supply. Today's news seems to indicate that the aluminum maker's fortunes will not be changing anytime soon.
UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) shares were also off 2.6% as the federal government said it may cut payouts for Medicare Advantage by more than 2% in 2014, which some analysts called "unfavorable" for the insurance providers.
Boeing (NYSE:BA) shares were up over 1% most of the day as the aircraft maker said it had found a solution for its Dreamliner battery fire problems, but fell late in the session after Qantas said it received $308 million in compensation from Boeing for delays in Dreamliner orders and scrapped orders for 35 of the new jets. As for the battery fixes, a Boeing team is set to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing finished the session up 0.2%.