Aug. 21 - Summary: Wall Street rally fails as Fed minutes provide little clue on future bond purchases; Target returns focus on sluggish consumer; Revenues slide at Hewlett-Packard, management reshuffled. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Wall Street slumps to session lows, after a brief attempt at a rally, with investors unclear about the Federal Reserve's intentions. The Dow's six-day slump is the longest in over a year as it closes below 15,000 for the first time since early July. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's July meeting show that all 12 voting members believed that it was not yet time to curtail Fed bond buying, but a few policymakers thought the time for some tinkering was approaching, while others urged caution. Clues from the meeting did little to sway market expectations that policymakers will start slowing purchases next month. Target re-ignited worries the consumer will not be much help to the economy. The No. 2 U.S. discount retailer guided full-year estimates even lower after quarterly sales missed the mark. Target says its customers are spending cautiously as they grapple with higher taxes and higher prices to fill up their automobiles. Consumers, however, are really into their homes. Lowe's beat forecasts and raised its outlook for the year. Home Depot had similar results the day before. And quarterly revenues at Toll Brothers, the nation's largest luxury home builder, were up - although not as much as anticipated. One more thing on housing, sales of previously owned homes, jumped to a three-year high in July, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists are scrutinizing the numbers for any signs higher interest rates are slowing the housing recovery. After the bell, Hewlett-Packard saw a larger-than-expected slide in revenues, leading the tech company to shake up its management ranks. UPS is dropping health-care coverage for some spouses of workers who can get insurance through their own employers. The package-delivery company is blaming President Obama's healthcare reform for the decision, according to a memo seen by two media organizations. In Europe, stocks posted modest losses with investors seeking clarity from the Fed.