Stocks Fall on Earnings, Fed Minutes

U.S. stocks fell Wednesday after some high-profile earnings disappointments sullied the outlook for corporate profits and minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting dashed hopes for an interest-rate cut any time soon.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 15.04 points, or 0.13 percent, to end at 11,852.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 3.47 points, or 0.26 percent, to 1,349.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 7.16 points, or 0.31 percent, at 2,308.27.

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News of a small aircraft crashing into a building in New York briefly sent major indexes to the day's lows as investors feared a repetition of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Stocks recovered those losses by the end of trading, however, as officials said they believed the incident to be an accident.

"Any kind of air-related accident, whether terrorist related, intentional or purely accidental, will keep the financial markets on edge and has occurred on a day when the market was already on edge after Alcoa last night, which set the tone for a tough trading session," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co., who was speaking from Bozeman, Montana.

Shares of aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. (AA) dropped after the company reported a profit late Tuesday that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The report from Alcoa, the first Dow component to post earnings for the third quarter, is considered the kick-off of the reporting period.

Alcoa's stock fell 5.1 percent, or $1.44, to $26.85 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stocks were further pressured by Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker, the sole dissenter in the Fed's decision to leave rates unchanged, who added to concerns about inflation, saying policy makers must remain "quite vigilant" in a speech to a business luncheon.

The minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting in September said several policy makers were still quite concerned about the inflation outlook, suggesting any cut in interest rates might be further off than expected.

Less than an hour after the release of the Fed's minutes, reports about the air crash on Manhattan's Upper East Side emerged, sending the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 70 points, or about 0.6 percent, to a session low of 11,794.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell almost 9 points, or about 0.7 percent, to a session low at 1,343.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped about 23 points, or nearly 1 percent, to a session low of 2,292.29.

But the market was resilient, with those losses trimmed sharply within the last half hour of the regular trading session.

Biotech company Genentech Inc. (DNA) slipped 2.1 percent, or $1.76, to $84.15 after it reported sales of a cancer drug that fell short of analysts' expectations.

Money manager Legg Mason forecast quarterly earnings below Wall Street's expectations. Legg shares plunged 17.4 percent to $87.15 on the New York Stock Exchange. .

Shares of Monsanto Co. (MON) fell 5.3 percent, or $2.46, to $43.95 after the agricultural products company issued full-year 2007 earnings guidance below analysts' estimates.

Trading was active on the NYSE, with about 1.60 billion shares changing hands, slightly below last year's daily average of 1.61 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.04 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones by a ratio of 3 to 2 on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

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