Sign of the Apocalypse? Beer Sales Down in Europe; More Beer Bashing: Carlsberg Fingers Russia for Declining Sales; The Calm before the Storm: Fed Minutes Go out at 2:00 p.m.

Sign of the Apocalypse?  Beer Sales Down in Europe (Bloomberg)

Heineken claims that poor spring weather, combined with Europeans trying to rein in spending, caused its weak second quarter results. The Amsterdam-based brewer announced a 3 percent decline in beer sold by volume, led by an 8 percent decline in Western European sales. As a result, the company doesn???t expect to see revenue growth for the rest of the year. In addition to the colder weather and Europeans tightening purse strings, the world???s third-largest brewery also is attempting to slash costs across the board this year, seeking to save 625 million euros through 2014. Shares of Heineken fell almost 4 percent in Amsterdam. For European investors, this situation presents a Catch-22. With less beer sold, there will be less of it to use to swallow a dropping share price for the rest of the year.

More Beer Bashing: Carlsberg Fingers Russia for Declining Sales (CNBC)

Danish brewer Carlsberg followed the lead of European rival Heineken in reporting sluggish sales in the second quarter of the year. However, Carlsberg President Buhl Rasmussen pointed a finger of blame straight at Russia as the main culprit for the company???s operating profit falling to 3.44 billion Danish crowns, from an expected 3.58 billion Danish crowns. New laws in Russia have heavily regulated what was once a free-flowing beer industry. And because Carlsberg has long counted on the heavy-drinking Russians for profit margins, new regulations there hit the company???s sales where they hurt the most. Carlsberg will have to look elsewhere, such as Asia, to pick up lagging sales, but investors can take little solace in that, as no time frame has been established.

The Calm before the Storm: Fed Minutes Released at 2:00 p.m. Today (AP)

Markets this morning were ???subdued??? in anticipation of what the U.S. Federal Reserve reports at 2 p.m. about stimulus tapering. The prevailing theory is that the Fed will announce it will begin reducing its $85 billion a month purchases next month. Until the minutes are published at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, ???Volumes and volatility will probably remain low,??? said David Madden, market analyst at IG. In addition to the Fed???s minutes, the National Association of Realtors will also report monthly home sales figures. Between the two announcements, investors could be in for a market-moving last three hours of trading today.