Dow off 22 as stocks struggle for gains

Consumer confidence takes a dive as worries about job prospects grow. But home prices appear stronger. Stocks end little changed as investors wait for Fed Chairman Bernanke's Friday speech. Oil tops $96 as Isaac nears Louisiana.

By Charley Blaine Aug 28, 2012 1:01PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 7:31 p.m. ET

Stocks were down slightly today as investors looked toward Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's Friday speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and listened in on the Republican convention in Tampa.

Trading volume was quite light, and while the market was quiet, the economy gave off some strongly divergent signals. Consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in nine months, according to The Conference Board. But home prices are rising, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. That suggests confidence measures don't always translate into consumer action.

Crude oil (-CL) settled up 86 cents to $96.33 a barrel. But it had fallen back from a high of $96.54 as traders bet that Hurricane Isaac would cause only modest damage to the oil-and-gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico and the oil refineries along the Mississippi River. The storm was upgraded to a hurricane early this afternoon with winds of 75 mph. It is expected to make landfall south of New Orleans around 8 p.m. ET.

Apple (AAPL) shares were off slightly today, perhaps because of profit-taking. But its fight with Samsung continues. Apple asked a federal court in San Jose, Calif., to ban sales of eight Samsung smartphones cited in its patent violation lawsuit. Samsung vowed today to fight the move "with all necessary measures."

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) finished down 22 points to 13,103, the blue chips' sixth loss in the last seven sessions. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) was off 1 point to 1,409. But the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) gained 4 points to 3,077.

Article continues below.
The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX), which tracks the largest Nasdaq stocks, was essentially unchanged at 2,783. Apple, the biggest influence on the index, was off 88 cents to $674.80.

The market has been trading in a very narrow range for the past few weeks. The major averages have seen no daily gains or loss of more than 1% since Aug. 3, when the Dow closed at 13,096. It's up less than 7 points since -- a whopping 0.05%.

On Wednesday, the market faces earnings from H.J. Heinz (HNZ), Brown-Forman (BF.B), retailer Coldwater Creek (CWTR), construction-equipment-maker Joy Global (JOY) and Tivo (TIVO). Heinz officials said today that the quarter's results have been strong as the company expands into emerging markets.

The big economic report is the first revision to the nation's second-quarter gross domestic product. The original estimate, released in July, was 1.5% on an annualized basis. Many economists believe the new estimate will show slightly stronger growth. Also due: the weekly report on oil inventories.

Futures trading suggests a modestly higher open.

The waiting continues
A big reason why the markets are flat -- aside from August vacations -- is that many traders are simply waiting to see what moves the Fed may make, what Europe will do to fix its debt problems and how the U.S. elections turn out. Most polls suggest a tightening race.

The Bernanke speech at the Fed's annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is expected to be examined closely for clues on if and when the Fed will engage in a new round of quantitative easing. That's the jargon for purchases of Treasury securities. The Fed has been selling short-term securities and buying long-term notes and bonds to keep rates low and ensure maximum cash in the economy.

Many expected the program to be larger, but there is big disagreement among the governors of the Federal Reserve system and the presidents of the 12 regional banks. Many don't believe the economy needs any help.

The new wrinkle at the Fed's retreat is that Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, canceled his plans to speak on Saturday. He's too busy, the ECB said. The ECB is expected to announce plans on Sept. 6 for its own bond-buying plan to support Italy, Spain and Greece.

Another reason for his declining to speak may be, as Morgan Stanley's David Darst told CNBC today, that Draghi doesn't want to commit to anything before Germany's highest court rules on whether Germany can legally participate in some bailout plans. That ruling comes on Sept. 12.

While some believe the market is simply waiting to fall apart, the signals for a truly big decline aren't there. In August 2008, before the great crash erupted, the Dow closed up or down more than 100 points 11 times. There have been just three such days in August 2012.

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GM suspends Volt production
General Motors
(GM) shares were off 28 cents to $20.94. The auto giant said today that it plans to temporarily suspend production of the battery-powered Chevrolet Volt due to high inventory levels.

The shutdown at the company's plant at Hamtramck, Mich., will be the second this year for the Volt, which suffered from weaker-than-expected demand. 

In the first half of the year, GM was only able to sell 10,666 Volts in the United States. While this is up nearly 300% compared to last year, the company is still far from meeting its yearly goal. For the full year, the company hopes to sell 45,000 of these cars in the U.S. and 60,000 globally.

The stock is up 3.3% this year but is off nearly 39% since going public in November 2010. The company has had problems with the Volt but much larger problems and losses in its European operations.

AS GM fell, so did Polypore (PPO), maker of critical components that make the lithium ion batteries in the Volt work. Shares were off $2.60 to $31.39.

Consumer confidence sags -- but could be worse
Consumer confidence unexpectedly weakened in August to a 10-month low as Americans turned more pessimistic about the short-term outlook, according to The Conference Board. There is "a high degree of pessimism on job prospects and the overall economic outlook," according to IHS Global Insight economist Chris Christopher. "Adding fuel to the fire is rising pump prices."

But things could be worse, he added. Last summer, as the debt-ceiling debacle unnerved markets around the world, confidence plunged even more.

The big question is if this is a lasting trend. The surveys used to calculate the index are two weeks old, noted Jim O'Sullivan, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. Some daily surveys suggest consumer moods have improved.

Home prices start to show strength
Home prices in 20 U.S. cities climbed in June for the first time since a tax credit boosted sales in 2010, the S&P/Case-Shiller report said. The report was another signal that the housing industry is starting to rebound.

The Case-Shiller index increased 0.5% from June 2011 after falling 0.7% in the 12 months that ended in May. The last 12-month increase took place in September 2010. Nationally, prices jumped last quarter by the most in more than six years.

The lowest mortgage rates on record and a decline in sales of distressed properties may help the market contribute to the economic expansion that is now in its fourth year.

Homebuilding stocks were mixed on the day. PulteGroup (PHM) was up 4 cents to $13.28; D.R. Horton (DHI) fell 12 cents to $18.62.

Leaders and laggards
Lexmark International
(LXK), up $2.61 to $21.62 after announcing it will get out of the inkjet printer business and cut 1,700 jobs in a bid to eliminate costs and support profits by concentrating in higher-margin markets. The decision also means shutting a factory in the Philippines. The stock was the top S&P 500 performer.

Molycorp (MCP), up $1.23 to $10.75. Late Monday, the company said it had begun operations to produce rare-earth elements from ore mined in California.

Discovery Laboratories (DSCO), up 41 cents to $3.22. Stiffel Nicolas started coverage on the company with a buy rating.

Movado Group (MOV), up $5.25 to $35.26. The watch maker reported better-than-expected results for the fiscal second quarter and lifted its forecast for the full year.

Brown Shoe Co. (BWS), down $1.13 to $14.27. The footwear retailer reported a narrower second-quarter loss.

KLA-Tencor (KLAC), down $1.32 to $51.66. Deutsche Bank cut its rating on the semiconductor-equipment maker to "sell" from "hold."

Only 10 of the 30 Dow stocks were higher, led by Intel (INTC), Chevron (CVX) and Exxon Mobil (XOM). Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Bank of America (BAC) were the laggards.

A total of 201 S&P 500 stocks were higher, led by Lexmark and Tyson Foods (TSN). (CRM) and Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK) were the laggards.

Forty-two Nasdaq-100 stocks were up led by Baidu (BIDU) and Autodesk (ADSK). KLA-Tencor and Dell (DELL) were the laggards.
Short hits from the markets -- New York close



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Aug 29, 2012 2:11PM
We are up a bit, about 2 hours to go, remain cautious, plenty of scumbags ready to do their thing....Like we keep saying, flat is good; but these manipulators of course do not want that...More later.
Aug 29, 2012 12:01PM
So Chris Christie says Bush III with his $250m fortune and $22m income wants me to make sacrifices to save MC and SSA for their children. I started paying FICA in 1966 at 3.63% and paid it for 44 years ending at 7.65% and they changed the rules for full retirement benefits in addition to the 100% rate increase. Well, Mr Christie and Romney can just raise the FICA rates and change the benefit rules for themselves and their children and stop asking for me to make sacrifices. I'm already getting no interest on my saving because the Republican bankers and their robber baron friends are using my money to shore up their lending institutions. The Republicans can just put back the $4 trillion they borrowed from SSA to fight their Christian Crusades and go to hell.
Aug 29, 2012 11:07AM
This morning very similar to the last two....Low volume and manipulators trying to do their thing....They called for the first wave of selling at 1045 hrs but they haven't done much...Still, lets be cautious, they will try to bring this market down all day...Flat is not bad at all...More later.
Aug 29, 2012 7:22AM

Waste Management got its start because cities couldn't afford union garbage people retiring at 52 for life and Waste Managment is cheaper.I know we just hired them.

Aug 29, 2012 6:46AM

"Does anybody realize that the Mormon Church is a purely socialist system, Mormons are required to tithe 10% of their gross to the Church."

I went to Salt Lake City and toured their zombie factory and that history museum below it. Pretty girls with altered minds lead you around. They cleverly infused their prophet and culture into actual history and display it. I've known three religions as a member in my years and each has its faults but this one is more a commercial venture than a religion.

Aug 29, 2012 4:04AM

Humpty Christie hollered on stage

He bellowed. He shouted. Looked all enraged
But try as he might, try as he can
He couldn't make Mitt a likeable man.
And when he was through (the Dumpty one he)
After patting himself, excited with glee
He turned to old Mitt, the robot, the stiff
Whose discomfort was clear, whose mind was adrift
Then anointed him the Chosen, the Messiah, the One
But, alas, dear Willard, after November you're done!

Obama/Biden 2012
Aug 29, 2012 1:54AM
The future of the Supreme Court is also what's at stake here...and will effect several generations.....We cannot allow Corporate America and the Christian Taliban to take over the Supreme Court..... and the Federal Government...

Obama/Biden 2012
Aug 29, 2012 12:52AM

Should I be shopping at Crazy8 store?  Maybe Crazy8s' got coupons for all of us. :)

Aug 29, 2012 12:09AM
After watching the GOP Convention......I have not heard so many lies coming out of ONE organization since the Catholic church protected and lied about their Priests molesting children.... 
Aug 28, 2012 10:59PM
Does anybody realize that the Mormon Church is a purely socialist system, Mormons are required to tithe 10% of their gross to the Church. The Church then creates food banks and relief funds for the more needy Mormons, if you don't have a job the Mormon Church will find one for you if your a tithing member, they will provide health care and welfare if your a member. Straight up Socialism and Romney's a High Priest in this Socialist system of life, Socialism is in His Blood and He's the leader of the Republican Party. So true So true,can you feel it.
Aug 28, 2012 10:54PM
If you can't afford to pay your employees a living wage, then you shouldn't be in business.  To do otherwise, makes you nothing more that a con-man, bilking honest people out of an honest day's labor.
Aug 28, 2012 10:37PM

>>>You bunch of idiot socialist demos need to get a life,like cleaning sewers or something.>>>


Cleaning sewers... a nice union job.  Actually garbage men and sewer cleaners are very well paid because no one else "wants to deal with it".   How do you think "Waste Management" got it's start?  And that guy never forgot to pay his employees a living wage.
Aug 28, 2012 10:26PM
The GOP convention....Fun watching Neanderthal Thinking Men talking to Morons...
Aug 28, 2012 10:25PM
The DOW slips because both buyers and sellers don't like what is going on in the Republican National Convention. 
Aug 28, 2012 10:19PM

CBS reporter Bill Whitaker was the only black man at the Republican convention. Brutal! Sorry that you had to go through that  Bill!


No Asians, Hispanics, nor any other race was to be found there either. All white people only! Why is that? LMAO


God bless and protect the United Christian Socialist States of America, where all races are welcome!


Barack Obama in 2012!


Chris Van Hollen in 2016 & 2020!

Aug 28, 2012 9:39PM
So when it came time at the GOP Convention for Ron Paul to say a few words, he was told to sit down and the event went straight to the vote. Hundreds came to hear Ron Paul speak. Millions nationwide were ready to back him. Millions still are. I don't know anyone who supports Willard. When he came to Michigan, he brought his own cardboard stand-up Michiganders because we don't support him here or his New World Order. I don't know about you... but I believe in First Amendment Rights and I want to hear RON PAUL SPEAK. Spread the words... no more shipt from Mitt-wits, let's hear it all from Ron Paul... the REAL Republican.
Aug 28, 2012 9:11PM

Here I quote the headline of this article:

"Consumer confidence takes a dive as worries about job prospects grow"

and then I quote a realist from below:

"You bunch of idiot socialist demos need to get a life,like cleaning sewers or something."


And now I am telling you .... OBAMA IS THE BEST...

The best and fastest at raising the debt to 16 trillions and counting

The best at keeping people at home without a job and no hope

The best at giving people all the food stamps they want...even to buy lottery instead of milk and bread...

The best at stealing $700 B from medicare to fund his Obamadon'tCare

The best at funding Solyndra and giving back billions to taxpayers in return of good investment

The best at being the puppet of all the stupids who elected him.

Aug 28, 2012 8:46PM

Same old story, The housing market shows signs of rebounding. Where? The only reason that housing is showing any movement is because of the well to do people out in Hollywood and some people who always put themselves ahead of their employees and go and buy houses that they won't be able to afford down the road again, instead of taking care of business first and getting the whole economy going again.


In our neck of the woods, there are a lot of properties up for sale and they are not selling. Plus people are leaving the area because they can no longer afford the property and school taxes because the commercial businesses like manufacturing and service jobs are non exiistant!

Aug 28, 2012 8:14PM
"The real Tea party and the Founding Fathers, were being taxed, yet they had no voice in government, only the British Aristocracy and the Land Barron's made laws to their advantage".

The truth is that Britain let the colonist do whatever they wanted with "free" land even though England was subsidizing their capitalist ventures.  Once England was financially strapped because of war with France they began to Tax the colonist and hence the Boston Tea Party.  Basically it's the same thing all over again 1% do not want to pay taxes.

"Today we have the same Aristocracy, only Unions and Corporations can afford the Lobbyist and Campaign contributions necessary to sway Washington." 

The truth is, Republican Party selected conservative justices that would eliminate the CAP on Corporations/Unions on campaign contributions in an effort to win the election by creating Super PACs that would enable them to beat an incumbent in raising money in an election.

So there you go. So you ask me, the people got what they wanted consequences and all because voters have no idea what they are voting for and are filled with BS propaganda crap.

Aug 28, 2012 7:59PM
Hedonist13 said this:
Some of us believe that we can do a better job with OUR money than the government can. I personally do NOT want Social Security and medicare. I would much rather be able to invest my money where I know it wouldn't be raided by the government  and replaced with IOU's. 

Name the first time the Government sent a IOU to a person on Medicare or Social Security....
and you are right Some of Us can do a better job.....maybe....Not Medicare that's a fact.....maybe SS, but if the Market crashes then what..?????  Kinda risky for the masses, don't you think? 
Lastly,  what about all the other members of your family,  will you help them if need be or let them live in poverty and with No Health Insurance.......Whic​h way seems a less costly and risky way to assure your family and friends won't end up without Health Insurance and living in poverty in their old age..
I Give, You Give,  WE GET.....
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