NEW YORK Wall Street stumbled through a lopsided session Wednesday, closing mixed as profit warnings and news from blue chip names Alcoa Inc. and Boeing Co. dragged down the Dow Jones industrial average but largely spared technology stocks.
A pullback was to be expected after the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index finished at new highs Tuesday amid enthusiasm over comments from Federal Reserve policymakers about interest rates, but corporate news appeared to hasten Wednesday's slide.
Declines by Dow components Boeing and Alcoa, among others, hurt the 30-stock index. Meanwhile, International Paper Co. and Chevron Corp. moved lower on profit news.
With investors thumbing through fresh quarterly results and company news, the latest economic readings did little to dislodge the dichotomy between blue chips and tech stocks. A report showed inventories among U.S. wholesalers ticked up in August, while a trade group for real estate agents warned the drop in sales of existing homes this year will be steeper than had been expected.
The stock market's uneven but still relatively calm trading Wednesday followed the surge the day before that was sparked by release of the minutes from the Fed's last meeting. Wall Street initially was ebullient that the Fed didn't appear to rule out further rate cuts but, on reflection, some investors seemed to be questioning whether that response was a little too optimistic.
"People are looking backward at what the Fed was discussing to try and discern whether or not we're in a recession," said Kim Caughey, equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group. "Looking in the rearview mirror isn't going to give us that clarity because its history, so instead I'm really looking forward to what corporate earnings will show."
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 85.84, or 0.61 percent, to 14,078.69 after rising 120 points on Tuesday.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The S&P 500 fell 2.68, or 0.17 percent, to 1,562.47, and the technology-laden Nasdaq composite index rose 7.70, or 0.27 percent, to 2,811.61.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 4.65 percent, compared with late Tuesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Light, sweet crude rose $1.04 to settle at $81.30 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange following word that workers at Chevron facilities in Nigeria had staged a surprise strike and by a report that demand for gasoline is up.
Wednesday's session came as investors tried to determine whether the Fed will make a move when it meets Oct. 30-31. Last month's decision to lower short-term interest rates by a larger-than-expected half percentage point helped stoke a recovery in stocks after a sharp summer pullback amid concerns about tight access to credit and an economic slowdown.
But corporate, not broad economic concerns, appeared to attract Wall Street's attention Wednesday. Boeing fell $2.77, or 2.7 percent, to $98.68 after announcing it was delaying initial deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner commercial aircraft by six months. The company cited challenges in finishing assembly of the first airplanes.
Alcoa posted a 3 percent profit increase as revenue fell. But excluding a boost to its bottom line from the sale of a stake in a Chinese aluminum company, the aluminum producer's results fell short of Wall Street's expectations. Alcoa fell 99 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $38.73.
International Paper lowered its projection for how much it expects to take in from sales of land in the third quarter, news that sent shares falling 88 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $36.18.
Chevron fell 72 cents to $92.08 after the company warned that its third-quarter profit will come in well below the $5.4 billion it earned in the second quarter.
However, Wall Street also received some upbeat news when Costco Wholesale Corp. reported better-than-expected results. Shares of the retailer gave a boost to the Nasdaq, rising $5.82, or 9.2 percent, to $69.13.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 6 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1 billion shares, down from 1.09 billion Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.53, or 0.06 percent, to 845.19.Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.10 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.27 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.08 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.40 percent.