By Frances Yue and Andrew Keshner
U.S. stocks closed lower Tuesday, with cautious investors digesting more earnings reports ahead of White House negotiations on the debt ceiling later Tuesday and inflation data due Wednesday.
How stocks traded
On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 56 points, or 0.17%, to 33,619, the S&P 500 increased 2 points, or 0.05%, to 4,138, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 22 points, or 0.18%, to 12,257.
What drove the markets
With market-moving events on the horizon, there's a wait-and-see, risk-off dynamic at play for now.
The U.S. consumer-prices report for April will be published on Wednesday and investors hope to see inflation continuing to ease. That could allow the Federal Reserve to consider reducing interest rates later this year. Of course, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other central bankers may differ with investors over the prospect of rate cuts in 2023.
Fed-fund-futures traders have priced in an 82% chance that the U.S. central bank will pause raising its key interest rate at its June meeting and a large chance that the Fed will deliver at least one rate cut by the end of this year.
However, Federal Reserve officials at their last meeting "left the door open to respond to data as it comes in," said William Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
"So if inflation remains stubbornly high, we would expect that the Federal Reserve will rise to that objective and keep rates higher for longer than perhaps is priced into markets at this point in time, though not necessarily raising additionally," Northey said.
Economists anticipate that year-over-year inflation rates in April stayed at 5% but that core inflation -- which strips out volatile energy and food costs -- could cool slightly, according to economists polled by the Wall Street Journal In March, the annualized inflation rate declined to 5% from 6%
Meanwhile, president Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are scheduled to meet Tuesday after the market close for negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling. Don't expect any deal yet, analysts say.
Despite all the drama, billionaire Bill Gross says the negotiations will eventually culminate in a deal, which makes the rising yield on short-term Treasury debt extra alluring.
Stocks rallied at the end of last week, helping to push the S&P 500 back toward the top of the 3,800-to-4,200 range it has held all year, after sturdy jobs data eased fears of a sharp economic slowdown.
Northey said he views this period of time as the "chop period" between two repricings that have affected the capital market.
"The first repricing largely has impacted all cash-flowing assets by virtue of rising interest rates," said Northey. "The second repricing, and ultimately the reason for S&P's choppiness between this trading range, is based on the fact that the U.S. economy and the global economy are slowing, but the range of outcomes remains incredibly wide."
The S&P 500 Index is trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 17.7, "which makes it pricy relative to the 10-year average of 17.3 and potentially vulnerable to increased volatility if the economy weakens further and if the outlook for already weakening earnings worsens," according to José Torres, senior economist at Interactive Brokers.
The immediate trading focus might be on the next data point or news development around the corner, said Jay Woods, chief global strategist at Freedom Capital Markets.
But the "pockets of volatility" spurred on particular data points are one part of a bigger story. It's been a range-bound market where sideways -- instead of up and down -- is a common move.
Read also: Why the stock market can't break through the 4,200 ceiling on the S&P 500
Still, Woods is an optimist. "When we retreat, we are making a higher low," he said.
"What this market is doing right now, the strongest stocks in each individual sector are rising to top. It's not bringing everything with it," he said. At the same time, Woods added, "laggards are not making new lows."
"This is constructive. This is how bottoms are formed," he said.
There were no major U.S. economic updates released on Tuesday, but there was some commentary from Federal Reserve officials.
"The economy has started to slow in an orderly fashion," Fed Gov. Philip Jefferson said, according to a Reuters report. He spoke a day after a new Fed survey of loan officers showed banks continuing to tighten their commercial- and consumer-lending standards.
New York Fed President John Williams on Tuesday afternoon said Fed officials are going to be basing their future interest-rate decisions on all of the data in front of them.
What's more, earnings season continues but at a slower pace. Among those reporting on Tuesday are Nikola Corp. (NKLA), Fox Corp. (FOXA), Under Armour Inc. (UAA) and Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG), all before the opening bell, and Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), Airbnb Inc. (ABNB) and Dutch Bros Inc. (BROS) after the close.
Companies in focus
Jamie Chisholm contributed to this article.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 09, 2023 16:33 ET (20:33 GMT)
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