Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Investors seemed happy with the Federal Reserve's decision not to cut back on its bond-buying activity, as stock markets soared and bond yields plunged. After having been down slightly for much of the morning, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) closed with a gain of 147 points, hitting a new all-time record high. The broader market also did well, with the S&P 500 also hitting a new high-water mark for the bull market.
What's amusing is that the Fed's decision didn't accomplish much except to put off the inevitable. Unless you cynically believe that massive Fed balance sheet expansion can go on forever, investors will eventually have to get used to the idea that a huge source of demand will disappear, forcing market participants to pick up the slack or else see rates rise. From a long-term perspective, therefore, the gains only made stocks less attractive by temporarily making their prices flare upward.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA) once again led the Dow higher, gaining more than 3.5%. Many investors still treat Alcoa as a commodity stock, and the broader commodity industry did extremely well today. Investors looked at continued cheap financing as helping to support commodity prices that have in many cases fallen sharply during 2013. But it's important to understand that what's good for commodities in general isn't always good for every commodity, and aluminum in particular suffers from some challenges that other commodities don't have to deal with. As a result, even a broad-based recovery might not improve Alcoa's results too much.
Home Depot's (NYSE:HD) 2.1% rise makes more sense, given the sensitivity that its investors have to interest rates. Even before the announcement, mortgage applications rose more than 11%, as rates had turned lower over the past week. Further declines could lead to more activity in the space, helping support home-improvement efforts as well.
Finally, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) also posted a 2% gain. Despite its consistent long-term history of cash-generating performance, Coke stock has been weak lately, bucking the trend among defensive stocks as the company faces specific concerns about the health impact of its products. Yet the Fed decision arguably makes the company's dividend even more attractive, as lower rates for bond market alternatives support a shift toward Coke stock for portfolio income. The 3% gain in the SPDR Select Utilities ETF (NYSEMKT:XLU), which has a number of equally income-heavy stocks in it, shows just how important the Fed announcement was not just for stocks but for income-producing investments as well.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and Home Depot. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.