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After The Close - The U.S. stock market opened sharply lower, but managed to pare some of its losses, as the session came to a close. At the end of the day in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 244 points (-1.8%); the broader S&P 500 Index was lower by 21 points (-1.4%); the technology-heavy NASDAQ managed to firm up a bit, ending down 27 points (-0.9%). Market breadth showed widespread selling of equities, as declining stocks outnumbered advancers by about 3 to 1 on the NYSE. Weakness was seen in almost all market sectors. There were sharp losses in the energy stocks, probably due to concerns about the global economic outlook. The basic materials stocks were also hard hit. In contrast, there was some strength in the transports.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index fell through its 50-day moving average, located at 1,434.There may be some support for the index at 1,400, which held up back in August. If that area fails too, and we head lower, the S&P 500 could move down to test its 200-day moving average located at 1,375. This would be an almost 7% correction from its 52-week high. Sentiment has started to turn bearish, as the VIX, now at roughly 19, spiked over 13% higher today.

The economic news was light again, but tomorrow things should heat up. The housing market will be in the spotlight again, with the release of new home sales for September and the FHFA Housing Price Index. Further, the FOMC is set to release an interest-rate decision, but traders are not expecting much change in policy.

Once again, traders were digesting third-quarter earnings announcements. Unfortunately, a few high profile names reported less than impressive results. Overall, it seems that the current earnings season is somewhat mixed. 3M (MMM - Free 3M Stock Report) shares were lower today, on a mixed report. In technology, Texas Instruments (TXN) saw its stock waver on decent results. In contrast, Internet company Yahoo! (YHOO) put out a better-than-expected release and that stock was higher. United Parcel Service (UPS) also put out healthy results, and that stock moved up, carrying the transports, as a group.

Some of the weakness in the U.S. stock market today was probably a carryover from the international markets. In Europe, equities were off sharply, as Spain’s problems have once again become an area of concern.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

12:30 PM EDT - Earnings season is in full gear. And while the full tally has yet to come in, the overwhelming sense is that Wall Street is not impressed. A large number of those companies that have reported so far managed to generate year-over-year earnings growth for the third quarter, but top line growth has been a different story altogether. This, in combination with lowered forecasts for the quarters ahead, has prompted investors and traders to vote with their feet, further steepening the market’s recent downward slope. 

Of the major U.S. indexes, the 30 Dow Industrials have taken the biggest hit today, showing a decline of 244 points, or 1.8%, at the noon hour in New York. Three of its components , 3M (MMM Free 3M Stock Report), DuPont (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report) , and United Technologies (UTX Free United Technologies Stock  Report), issued disappointing financials for the third quarter while announcing job cuts or lowered forecasts for the remainder of the year. The broader S&P 500 Index wasn’t much better, falling 22 points for a decline of 1.5%. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy NASDAQ has proven the more-resilient of the three, showing a decline of just under 1%.

Meanwhile, over across the pond, the European bourses endured even wider losses. The attention there has been refocused on Spain, whose already weak sovereign debt situation was further hobbled by a new round of credit downgrades. On top of this, the Bank of Spain indicated that the country’s recession likely deepened in the latest quarter. All told, France’s CAC 40 fell 2.2%, with Germany’s DAX close behind with a decline of 2.1%. Meanwhile, London’s FTSE 100 endured a loss of 1.4%.   - Mario Ferro

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned. 

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11:40 AM EDT - Wall Street started the day on the downside and has moved sharply lower as some earnings reports from major players failed to spark investor confidence. Of particular note, three Dow component members issued disappointing financials for the third quarter. Specifically, DuPont’s (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report)share net came in below expectations while announcing it would be trimming 1,500 jobs. United Technologies Corp.’s (UTX - Free United Technologies Stock Report) earnings fell 3.3% and it trimmed its outlook for the remainder of the year  while 3M (MMM - Free 3M Stock Report) lowered its profit forecast due to a stronger dollar and acquisition costs. Outside of the Dow stocks, the general trend among companies reporting is that top line growth has become increasingly hard to come by, and earnings growth, through cost-cutting and streamlining, appears to be generating diminishing returns.

Also weighing on the markets today has been news of rising borrowing costs for Spain, whose already troubled debt situation has been exacerbated by a new round of credit downgrades. Altogether, two hours into today’s trading session, the Dow Jones Industrials have taken the biggest hit, shedding just over 250 points (1.9%).  The broader S&P 500 Index, meanwhile has not fared much, dipping 23 points for a decline of 1.6%. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy NASDAQ has proven somewhat more resilient, showing a decline of just over 1%.   - Mario Ferro 

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned. 

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Stocks to Watch From The Survey: Industrial conglomerate and Dow-30 component United Technologies (UTX - Free United Technolgies Stock Report) reported quarterly earnings that topped analysts' forecasts, but revenues disappointed the market, sending its share price lower in pre-market trading Tuesday.

Another Dow-30 member also reported results in the pre-market. 3M (MMM - Free 3M Stock Report), which makes everything from Post-it notes and Scotch tape to roofing granules, coatings for LCD screens, and traffic sign coatings, reduced its profit expectations for this year because of what it calls "current economic realities”.

Chemical maker DuPont (DD - Free DuPont Stock Report), the third and final Dow-30 entity to report today, posted quarterly earnings and revenue on Tuesday that fell short of analysts' expectations. The company also said it is cutting 1,500 jobs and plans to take further steps to increase competitiveness.

United Parcel Services (UPS) reported third-quarter earnings early Tuesday in line with estimates. After the earnings announcement, shares of the delivery company edged higher in trading before the bell.

Tech titan and market darling Apple Inc. (AAPL) plans to unveil the smaller version of its groundbreaking iPad device today. The price tag remains a big question mark as Apple prepares to showoff what is being dubbed the “iPad Mini”. Apple hasn't said anything about the product, but the veil of secrecy that the company throws over unreleased items has not been as opaque of late. With that, a number of perceived leaks have come on technology websites in recent days.   - Erik M. Manning

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Before The Bell - Investors are looking at another big day of earnings reports today following Monday’s session, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average eke out a small gain on a late rally, after being notably in the red for most of the day. Meantime, the NASDAQ posted a better percentage advance, on hopes for improved profits from technology companies.

After the close of trading yesterday, Yahoo! (YHOO) reported better-than-expected earnings, and its shares traded higher in after-hours trading. Even so, Wall Street didn’t hear all that it would have liked when Yahoo suggested that it would take years to get where the company wants to be in terms of its services for mobile devices and its interface with social media.

This morning starts out with a less benign backdrop out of Europe, where stocks are sharply lower on renewed economic fears. Concerns were reawakened when the Bank of Spain noted that the nation’s recession very likely worsened in the third quarter, owing to tough austerity measures.

As for these shores, earnings releases from a number of big names are bearing close review by analysts. Dow component DuPont (DDFree DuPont Stock Report) has reported lower profits on a drop in sales while reducing its full-year outlook. The chemicals maker also said that it aims to eliminate about 1,500 positions in a restructuring plan designed to boost productivity. DuPont does a lot of business in Europe, and seems to feeling the effects of the euro zone’s weak economic environment.

Another member of the Dow, United Technologies (UTXFree United Tech Stock Report) has also turned in a somewhat disappointing report card for the third quarter. Although the conglomerate topped Wall Street estimates for operating earnings, the revenue line was a source of some concern, as it has been for a number of companies reporting this earnings season.

Other news aside from earnings includes the start of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting. There are indications from some quarters that the Fed may boost the level of securities purchases under its latest quantitative easing (QE3) program. That would presumably be to ensure that all parties know that the central bank is absolutely firm in its resolve to boost the economy, and more pointedly, the labor market, at quickly as possible.

As for the start of trading in less than an hour, the futures markets are indicating a weak opening for stocks, as companies reporting earnings appear to be sending signals that are generally aimed at lowering investors’ expectations. - Robert Mitkowski 

At the time of this writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.