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The Dow Jones and S&P 500 ended in the red as investors were hesitant to take any positions in the absence of any major news. Nonetheless, the Nasdaq chalked up gains buoyed by news about Apple and Blackberry. The Dow and S&P 500 ended lower for the second consecutive day after logging their worst week since June. In recent days, discouraging comments from Fed officials about the future of the bond buying program have dampened markets’ sentiment. On the international front, Japan’s economy expanded at a lower rate than expected in the second quarter. The technology sector was the best performer among the S&P 500 industry groups. Utilities stocks suffered maximum losses.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) declined 0.04% to close the day at 15,419.68. The S&P 500 fell 0.1% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,689.47. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.3% to end at 3,669.95. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) slipped 4.5% to settle at 12.81. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 4.9 billion shares, well below 2013’s average of 6.36 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 51% shares that advanced, 46% declined.

Stocks have rallied this year primarily driven by the Federal Reserve’s bond buying program. The blue-chip index, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have jumped 17.7%, 18.5% and 21.5%, respectively, so far this year. But discouraging comments from Fed officials during the previous week continues to weigh on the markets. Comments from the Fed officials have made it more than apparent that the central bank will taper the bond buying program very soon. Some investors think that the economy may not grow at the current rate if the central bank shuts down its stimulus program.

Share of BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) jumped more than 10% after the company said it has formed a special committee to investigate strategic options. The company might sell itself or may enter into a partnership.   Chairman of BlackBerry Special Committee of the Board Timothy Dattels said: “Given the importance and strength of our technology, and the evolving industry and competitive landscape, we believe that now is the right time to explore strategic alternatives.” Shares of technology giant, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) gained nearly 3%, following a report that the company will reveal its new version of the iPhone on September 10.  

On the earnings front, SYSCO Corporation (NYSE:SYY) declared its fourth quarter results. The company’s net income declined 9% due to increase in operating expenses and restructuring charges. The company earned $283 million in its latest quarter in comparison with $309.3 million a year ago.         

On the international front, Japan’s economy expanded at lower rate than expected in the second quarter. According to government data, the world’s third largest economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.6%. This was below the expectations of 3.6%. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: "The economy has been steadily rising since the inauguration of the Abe administration last year.” "I'll continue to take all possible care about the economy. I'd like to focus on the economy, including implementation of further growth strategies in the autumn,” he added.

The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 0.7%. Stocks such as Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) and Yahoo! Inc (NASDAQ:YHOO) added 0.5%, 0.7%, 1.0% and 2.4%, respectively.

Utilities stocks were the worst performers and the Utilities SPDR (XLU) lost 0.5%. Stocks such as NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG), Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC), Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE:WEC), SCANA Corporation (NYSE:SCG) and PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG) slipped 1.4%, 0.6%, 0.3%, 0.5% and 0.7%, respectively.

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