After 10 straight days of gains, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finally gave back ground today, falling 25 point,s or 0.2%. The blue chips never broke into positive territory, because a poor consumer sentiment report, and a higher-than expected Consumer Price Index dampened the optimism that's fueled this month's rally.
Consumer prices jumped 0.7% in February, in large part due to a 9% increase in gas prices during the month. Overall, it was the biggest increase in consumer prices in over three years. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose just 0.2%.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence dropped to 71.8, from 77.6 last month, a figure economists thought would hold, according to a University of Michigan survey. The current mark is the lowest level since December 2011, as worries about sequestration and the layoffs that may result appear to have disquieted the average consumer. The survey reported a record percentage of unfavorable responses to government fiscal policies, and consumer expectation of conditions over the next few months dropped sharply.
As for individual stocks, banks were big movers today after the Fed released its decision on which of the 18 too-big-to-fail banks could return capital to shareholders. The Fed approved the plans of 14 of the lenders, asked JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs for resubmission, and outright rejected the plans of BB&T and Ally Financial. JPMorgan shares dropped 1.9% as a result, and the bank cut its share buyback plan in half, to $6 billion. It also raised its quarterly dividend from $0.30, to $0.38. Separately, in Senate hearings today, JPMorgan's former Chief Investment Officer Ina Drew, who was in charge of the unit that lost $6.2 billion in the "London Whale" trade, denied wrongdoing as the bank continues to defend itself.
Bank of America shares shot up 3.8% today after the Fed approved its plan to buy back $5 billion worth of common stock and $5.5 billion in preferred shares. B of A did not submit plans to increase its dividend, which sits at just $0.01 per quarter. Still, the approval was a big step for the lender as it's struggled to return to solvency following the financial crisis.
Boeing was also a big winner today, climbing 2.1% to a new five-year high after it said the 787 should be back in flight in just a few weeks, thanks to a fortified power pack that would negate the fire risk.
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