NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as investors speculated on when the Federal Reserve might curb its stimulus measures and after department store Macy’s stock fell from a “tough” sales environment.
Macy’s (M.N) reported second-quarter sales and profit that missed expectations and cut its full-year earnings forecast. The chain was forced to discount items as consumers limited their spending on non-essential goods. “The sales environment is tough,” said Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough. Macy’s stock fell 4.2 percent to $46.45.
Trading volume has been low as earnings season winds down and economic indicators present a mixed view of growth, complicating predictions of the Fed’s next policy action. The Fed has been buying $85 billion in bonds on each month to hold interest rates lower. Some expect the Fed to taper bond purchases as early as September if data shows the economy is improving.
“I think there’s a lot of anticipation about the taper that’s about to happen, so you’re seeing a little bit of a slowdown,” said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital in San Francisco.
“The market is also confused because the data we’re seeing is in both camps - tapering and non-tapering - so investors are holding back on big moves until September.”
The government said U.S. producer prices were flat in July, below expectations for a 0.3 percent increase. The data could add to worries at the Fed that inflation is too low. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said the Fed might not end quantitative easing until inflation begins to trend higher.
Apple shares hit $500 for the first time since January. Apple (AAPL.O) rose 2.7 percent to $502.95 a day after investor Carl Icahn, using Twitter, said that he has a large position in Apple. The latest quarterly hedge fund filings released by regulators also showed that Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors took a stake in Apple.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 86.38 points, or 0.56 percent, at 15,364.63. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 5.41 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,688.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 4.25 points, or 0.12 percent, at 3,680.20.
The Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT.P) fell 3.3 percent to $44.61 as Egypt’s death toll rose to 95. The country’s interim vice president resigned and a state of emergency was imposed following political clashes in the country.
Shares of ExOne (XONE.O), a maker of 3-D printers, slid 7.6 percent to $69.84 after it reported second-quarter sales below analysts’ estimates and forecast 2013 revenue at the lower end of its guidance.
SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS.N) reported a quarterly loss as attendance fell at its amusement parks, sending the company’s shares down 3.6 percent to $35.
U.S.-listed shares of Chinese solar panel maker Jinko Solar (JKS.N) jumped 9.5 percent to $14.84 after the company swung to a profit following seven quarters of losses.
Editing by Kenneth Barry