Wednesday’s Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

The major stocks were falling Wednesday afternoon on account of concern that the U.S. Federal Reserve will pull back on its stimulus measures. As of 12 p.m.:

DIJA: -0.91% to 15269.14 S&P 500: -0.88% to 1645.38 NASDAQ: -0.73% to 3463.54
Gold: +2.47% to 74.77 Oil: -1.78% to 21.6978 U.S. 10-Year: +0.84% to 21.53

Here are three stories helping shape the markets on Wednesday afternoon:

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1. Has Soaring Consumer Confidence Boosted Retail Sales? After plummeting in March — when Americans worried about the effects of the automated government budget cuts — consumer confidence has soared this month, hitting its highest reading since February 2008. Fueling the increase is consumer positivity about current business and job-market conditions. As evidence of the improving labor market, the U.S. Department of Labor reported last week that there were fewer claims for unemployment benefits. While this growing confidence has not fully translated to an increase in consumer spending and therefore retail sales, recent figures have not been as dismal as they were in March and April.

Still, retail sales figures continue to show a mixed picture of the health of the American consumer, whose spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of economic activity in the United States. In March, following the federal government’s January hike of the payroll tax, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that retail sales had contracted 0.5 percent… (Read more.)

2. Is the U.S. Federal Reserve Damaging the Mortgage Market? The housing recovery continues to show it is heavily dependent on low interest rates induced by the Federal Reserve, as mortgage applications decline for the third consecutive week.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest report for the week ending May 24, loan application volume dropped 8.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. This comes after a 9.8-percent decrease in the previous week. These figures include both refinancing and home purchase demand, and cover over 75 percent of all domestic retail residential mortgage applications… (Read more.)

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3. Cook Stays Secretive on Apple TV and iWatch: Will Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) soon be stepping into the wearable tech market? Pundits and Apple watchers who were hoping to get some answers to this question at the All Things D conference in Palos Verdes, California, this week were sorely disappointed. Apple CEO Tim Cook kept his cards close to his chest when it came to discussing the company’s future plans for this lucrative market.

When asked if the company would be part of the “post-PC era wearable” tech market, Cook simply showed the audience at the conference that he was wearing a Nike (NYSE:NKE) FuelBand that is compatible with iOS… (Read more.)

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