Stocks slumped on Wednesday as the market continued to gauge when the Federal Reserve might start to reduce its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. Apple was a standout as some big investors took stakes in the smartphone maker.
In company news, Apple shares gained nearly 2 percent, a day after activist investor Carl Icahn revealed he had taken a large stake in the company. The stock pushed above $500 intraday but was unable to close above that mark.
Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors also took a small 31,000 share stake in the company last quarter, according to its latest SEC filing. Cooperman told CNBC's Scott Wapner that he got back into the iPhone maker in the low $400s and that he agrees with Carl Icahn that Apple is cheap. Cooperman still thinks the best play in the space is Qualcomm, however.
Apple stock is up about 10 percent over the past three days, its strongest three-day winning streak since May 2010.
On the downside, Macy's whiffed on earnings, posting a profit of 72 cents a share that missed estimates by 6 percent. Guidance also was weak, sending shares tumbling and dragging down the broader consumer discretionary sector.
"To see Macy's miss by a wide margin is troublesome, speaking volumes about the health, or lack thereof of Middle America," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors.
In other earnings reports, Deere reported strong earnings of $2.56 a share, easily beating Wall Street expectations, but investors are concerned the farm cycle has peaked.
In deal news, Steinway Musical Instruments jumped on news that Paulson & Co. will purchase the company for $40 a share.