Wall Street finished with a mixed performance Tuesday, as investors traded cautiously ahead of the Federal Reserve's Wednesday decision...

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NEW YORK — Wall Street finished with a mixed performance Tuesday, as investors traded cautiously ahead of the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday decision on interest rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.81 to 12,831.94.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, sank 35 cents to close at $28.64 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained 55 cents to $85.53.

The biggest drag on the Dow was the component Merck, which sank $4.30, or 10.4 percent, to $37.14 after the Food and Drug Administration refused to approve Merck’s new cholesterol drug Cordaptive.

Broader markets were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 5.43 to 1,390.94, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 1.70 to 2,426.10.

The Fed, facing a faltering economy but also rising inflation, is expected to cut interest rates by another quarter point after its two-day meeting concludes today. Many investors believe policymakers will then signal that they are planning to hold rates steady for a while.

Consumers have been worried about inflation because it means energy and grocery bills are harder to pay. Wall Street is also concerned, because inflation tends to curtail consumer spending.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its April index of consumer confidence fell for the fourth straight month because of heightened disappointment about soaring prices and the weakening job market.

“There’s no panic out there [in the market] because of the consumer-confidence numbers, but there is more concern about inflation then we had just a few weeks ago,” said Jim Herrick, director of equity trading at Baird. “Everyone is interested in what the Fed will do about it.”