For the first time in a while, no one today was seriously talking about new record highs for the stock market. Even positive news on the housing front wasn't enough to dispel worries about the ongoing banking crisis in Cyprus and the possible reaction of the Federal Reserve, which is meeting today and tomorrow to discuss interest-rate policy. After seeing significant gains give way to losses by noon, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) ended up splitting the difference, rising just 4 points as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped modestly.
For Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), though, the Dow's bounce didn't lift its shares too far, as it finished with a loss of almost 1.25%. The ongoing disparity between a strengthening recovery in the U.S. and troubling trends in international markets has caused problems for the construction-equipment maker, which has identified the Chinese market as a key element of its overall growth strategy. Without improvement not just in the U.S. economy but throughout the world, Caterpillar will have a tough time dispelling the concerns investors have about the company -- especially since Caterpillar itself hasn't hesitated to pipe up with warnings about the fragile state of the global economy.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA) also fell almost 1%, with the aluminum company facing similar macroeconomic concerns. But news from Japan that buyers agreed to accept aluminum shipments during the second quarter of 2013 at premiums of nearly $250 per metric ton was seen as positive, having risen from the first-quarter premiums of $240 to $245. Still, the levels aren't as high as record levels near $255 from 2012's fourth quarter, and some analysts point to the probability that producers will have to accept lower premiums for some buyers that are still holding out.
Outside the Dow, Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) fell more than 6% to a new multiyear low, as Goldman Sachs added its own negative sentiment to the chorus of investors who have become extremely bearish on the steel industry and the suppliers that provide raw materials for steel production. With Cliffs facing not only falling iron ore prices but also higher costs at its mine properties, the company doesn't have any obvious catalysts that would help its shares hit bottom.
Finally, Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) fell 5%. Again, Goldman was the catalyst, downgrading the stock and citing intense competition not just from industry leader Cisco Systems but from smaller players as well. With new technology coming out, Juniper has to demonstrate its ability to keep up if it wants to stay competitive in the space, especially given the unpredictable capital-spending patterns among its key telecom customers.