Stocks struggle after crash report
Aircraft reported to hit residential building in Manhattan, sending markets to session lows.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks fell to their lowest levels of the session Wednesday afternoon after a small plane crashed into an apartment building on Manhattan's posh Upper East Side, but the market recovered a bit on signs that terrorists weren't involved.
The Dow Jones industrial average (down 24.57 to 11,842.60, Charts) fell about 0.2 percent with less than half an hour left in the session. Right after the incident, the Dow was off more than twice as much.
The Federal Aviation Administration described the plane as a small fixed-wing aircraft flying under visual flight rules.
"I have no idea where this thing (the plane) came from," said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs New York area airports. "We haven't heard from any of our facilities that anything's missing."
Mark Mershon, head of the FBI office in New York City, told CNN there are "no indications of terrorism." A senior U.S. official in Washington said President Bush had been notified, and the administration was monitoring the situation. (Developing story.)
Before the incident, stocks were slightly lower as disappointing earnings reports unnerved investors. Minutes from the Federal Reserve's September policy meeting showing officials remain "concerned" about inflation had little effect on stocks.
On Tuesday, the Dow hit a record close, ending at 11,867.17, its fourth record in little more than a week.
Stocks had rallied for five of the last six sessions after a surprisingly strong third quarter for the market - typically the weakest of the year for Wall Street. But the gains were modest as investors expressed caution at the start of another earnings reporting period.
"The focus this week is now on earnings and we just didn't have a good start with Alcoa," Hugh Johnson, chairman of asset management company Johnson Illington Advisors, said earlier in the session, before the plane crash. "It's taken a little bit of the gusto out of the market," he said.
Investors will be more cautious going forward, Johnson said. Earnings reports from Costco (Charts), PepsiCo (Charts) and Dow component GE (Charts) are all slated for later in the week. The next three weeks will see most of the S&P 500 report results for the quarter.
On the move
In earnings news, Dow component Alcoa (Charts) said its third-quarter profit almost doubled as revenue increased. But results came in below estimates, sending shares of the aluminum maker 5 percent lower. Rival Alcan (Charts) also fell more than 2 percent.
In related news, McAfee (up $0.73 to $26.52, Charts) stock jumped 3 percent after the security software firm said its chairman and CEO George Samenuk would step down following an internal probe into the company's stock options practices and that it had terminated Kevin Weiss as president.
And two high-profile directors at Apple (down $0.65 to $73.16, Charts) may have also had a conflict of interest when they conducted a investigation into the company's backdated stock options grants, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
In other news, shares of Bank of America (down $0.67 to $53.96, Charts) fell 1 percent after the nation's No. 2 bank said it will offer free online trades to customers with at least $25,000 in deposits or other accounts.
And a published report said private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group have raised their bid for the world's largest casino operator Harrah's Entertainment (down $0.21 to $76.18, Charts) to more than $15.5 billion.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers edged out winners on volume of 1.1 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners edged out advancers by three to two on volume of 1.4 billion shares.
On the economic front, Fed policy-makers remained "quite concerned" about inflation risks when they met in September, but decided to keep rates on hold for a second straight time, minutes from the Sept. 20 Federal Open Market Committee meeting released showed. (Full story.)
Treasury prices turned lower after the minutes were released, raising the yield on the 10-year note to 4.78 percent from 4.76 percent late Tuesday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
The dollar edged higher against the euro and yen.
COMEX gold for December delivery added 30 cents to $576.50 an ounce.