Rough day on Wall Street
Major gauges fall but end off lows after plane crashes into a residential highrise in NYC; oil sinks.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks fell Wednesday as investors digested news that a small plane crashed into a luxury high-rise apartment building in New York City.
The Dow Jones industrial average (down 15.04 to 11,852.13, Charts) sank to session lows right after news of the crash but recovered somewhat after it became apparent terrorism wasn't involved. The Dow ended down about 0.1 percent. Right after the crash, the 30-share Dow was off about 0.5 percent.
The broader S&P 500 (down 3.47 to 1,349.95, Charts) index and the tech-fueled Nasdaq composite (down 7.16 to 2,308.27, Charts) fell about 0.3 percent.
A small airplane crashed into the 50-story Belaire on East 72nd Street near the East River, killing at least two people.
Mark Mershon, head of the FBI office in New York City, told CNN there are "no indications of terrorism." (Developing story.)
A senior U.S. official in Washington said President Bush was notified, and the administration was monitoring the situation.
New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre told CNN the plane was a Cirrus SR-20 registered to team pitcher Cory Lidle. FBI officials said Lidle was the only one aboard the plane and that emergency workers found his passport in the street below.
Before the incident, stocks were slightly lower as disappointing earnings reports worried 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.
"Alcoa's earnings yesterday set the tone for trading today, causing traders to be a little on the nervous side" said Fred Dickson, chief market analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co. "The tragedy in New York just heightened investor tension momentarily until some of the details developed and were sorted out."
Investors will be more cautious going forward, Dickson said. Earnings reports from Costco (Charts) and PepsiCo (Charts) are due Thursday morning while Dow component GE (Charts) is set to report Friday. The next three weeks will see most of the S&P 500 report results for the quarter.
In addition, investors will also be paying close attention to September's retail sales report, also due out Friday.
On the move
After the closing bell, Yum Brands (down $0.19 to $54.57, Charts) reported higher quarterly earnings and raised its outlook for the year, sending shares of the fast-food company up slightly in extended trade.
Shares of Lam Research (up $1.11 to $48.12, Charts) jumped 5 percent on Inet after the microchip equipment maker posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit.
But casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday (down $0.25 to $28.89, Charts) posted slightly lower sales and shares slumped nearly 3 percent in after-hours trade.
In other news, Dow component Alcoa (down $1.44 to $26.85, Charts) said its third-quarter profit almost doubled but the results missed estimates, sending shares of the aluminum maker 5 percent lower. Rival Alcan (down $0.77 to $39.90, Charts) also fell nearly 2 percent.
Gannett (down $1.49 to $56.23, Charts) shares sank after the newspaper publisher reported a 12 percent decline in third-quarter earnings.
And shares of Genentech (down $1.45 to $84.15, Charts) fell after the world's No. 2 biotechnology company reported higher third-quarter profit but lower sales of certain cancer drugs.
CNET Networks (down $0.76 to $9.14, Charts) tumbled 7.7 percent after the company said Shelby Bonnie resigned as CEO after a special committee blamed him for backdating of stock options.
In related news, McAfee (up $0.85 to $26.64, Charts) stock jumped about 3 percent after the security software firm fired its president and said CEO George Samenuk would step down after an internal probe into the company's stock options practices.
And two high-profile directors at Apple (down $0.58 to $73.23, 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 $0.59 to $54.04, Charts) fell 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.
Online brokers Charles Schwab (down $0.84 to $17.22, Charts) sank 4.6 percent and Ameritrade (down $2.28 to $16.82, Charts) tumbled 12 percent on the news.
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 $0.05 to $76.34, Charts) to more than $15.5 billion.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners by 10 to seven on volume of 1.6 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners edged out advancers by three to two on volume of 2 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.
Oil prices lost 93 cents to $57.59, a fresh 2006 low, after an OPEC minister said the oil cartel will soon announce a formal decision to cut 1 million barrels a day of production. (More on OPEC's gamble).
COMEX gold for December delivery added 30 cents to $576.50 an ounce.