Wall Street subdued after mixed earnings, focus on Fed Reuters via biedexmarkets.com

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 29, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. stocks were muted on Tuesday as mixed corporate earnings and solid economic data preoccupied investors while the Federal Reserve convened for its monetary policy meeting.

The fell, hovering just below Monday’s all-time closing high, while the Nasdaq, weighed by megacap tech and tech-related stocks including Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc, suffered a steeper percentage drop.

The blue-chip Dow was modestly higher.

Economically sensitive sectors such as , chips and small caps were underperforming the broader market.

“Markets are in a holding pattern given the busy week,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky. “There’s nothing market-moving especially on the doorstep of so many big items over the next few days.”

On the economic front, the Labor Department reported an unexpected rise in job openings, hinting that the jobs market remains too solid for the Fed to consider cutting its key policy rate as soon as March.

The Fed is expected to end its policy meeting on Wednesday with a decision to let its key interest rate stand at 5.25%-5.50%. Its accompanying statement and Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s subsequent press conference will be parsed for clues on the timing and number of rate cuts this year.

“I don’t think anyone expects any change in (Fed) policy, but the statement and the press conference are market-moving events,” Mayfield added. “Obviously the market will be gauging the level to which the Fed confirms their dovish pivot for 2024.”

Fourth-quarter reporting season has shifted into overdrive, with 144 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 78% have delivered consensus-beating earnings, according to LSEG.

On aggregate, analysts now expect fourth-quarter earnings growth of 5.5% over last year, up from the 4.7% seen at the beginning of the month, LSEG data showed.

United Parcel Service (NYSE:) slid 7.1% after the package deliverer issued a disappointing annual revenue forecast, weighing on transports.

General Motors (NYSE:) jumped 8.1% after the automaker provided an upbeat 2024 earnings forecast, and promised more capital return to shareholders.

Ford Motor (NYSE:) also gained 2.6%.

At 2:16 p.m. the rose 102.91 points, or 0.28%, to 38,434.74. The S&P 500 lost 3.07 points, or 0.06%, at 4,924.86 and the fell 124.97 points, or 0.80%, to 15,503.48.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, tech was down the most, while financial stocks enjoyed the largest percentage gains.

Alphabet and Microsoft (NASDAQ:) both fell ahead of results expected after the closing bell.

Boeing (NYSE:) Co shares slid 2.6% on ahead of its quarterly earnings report expected before Wednesday’s opening bell. The planemaker is contending with intensifying scrutiny surrounding certification of its 737 MAX 7, which intensified after a mid-air cabin blowout on Jan. 5.

Citigroup and Bank of America rose over 3% following rating upgrades from Morgan Stanley, pushing the S&P 500 banks index up 2.2%.

Johnson Controls (NYSE:) dropped 3.3% after the building products supplier lowered its full-year profit expectation, while MSCI advanced 9.5% after the global index provider posted a higher fourth-quarter profit.

Super Micro Computer (NASDAQ:) jumped 3.6%, after the server seller projected stronger-than-expected quarterly sales.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.1-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. There were 353 new highs and 35 new lows on the NYSE. On the Nasdaq 1,460 stocks rose and 2,700 fell as declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 1.8-to-1.

The S&P 500 posted 72 new 52-week highs and no new lows while the Nasdaq recorded 184 new highs and 85 new lows.