Stocks fell Thursday, with investors too worried about high gas prices and stagnant employment to be impressed by higher consumer spending.
But trading volume was light, the market’s direction was steady, and there wasn’t much in the way of major economic news.
That could all change today. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m., and investors will be listening closely for his opinion on the economy and whether the Fed will take more action to try to prop it up.
Some thought Bernanke’s speech, for all the hype, would end up being a non-event. The statements from Fed officials are sometimes too ambiguous to really guide the market. And there’s a lot of doubt that the Fed can do anything for the economy anyway.
“Some people hang on every word, they try to figure out what kind of briefcase he’s carrying,” said John Lekas, senior portfolio manager at Leader Capital in Portland, Ore. “I think that’s a waste of time.”
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 106.77 points to 13,000.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 11.01 to 1,399.48. The Nasdaq composite slid 32.48 to 3,048.71.