Stock Market Today: Markets Mark Time Ahead of Tech Earnings, Fed

Stocks searched for direction ahead of mega-cap tech quarterly reports and tomorrow's rate decision.

stocks red market down
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks were choppy Tuesday as traders awaited earnings due after the closing bell from Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT), and also looked ahead to tomorrow's interest rate announcement from the Federal Reserve.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.4% to 38,467, while the broader S&P 500 fell less than 0.1% to 4,924. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 0.8% to 15,509. 

In economic news, consumer confidence soared to a two-year high to kick off 2024, helped by easing inflation and strong growth. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose to 114.8 in January, up from a revised 108.0 in December. That's the highest reading since the end of 2021, and the third straight monthly increase, the Conference Board said.

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"January's increase in consumer confidence likely reflected slower inflation, anticipation of lower interest rates ahead and generally favorable employment conditions as companies continue to hoard labor," said Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, in a press release. 

Oliver Allen, senior U.S. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the data can be summed up in one line: "consumers show little sign of tiring." 

Rising stocks and falling gas prices "probably explain much of the recent rise in consumer sentiment," Allen notes. "But the trend in sentiment is presumably also being boosted by the sustained sharp fall in inflation and the recent drop in mortgage rates," the economist adds. "Both likely will continue."

Elsewhere on the economic calendar, a measure of U.S. home prices rose for a 10th consecutive month to hit a record high in November. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city house price index rose 0.1% in November vs the prior month. Home prices rose despite high mortgage rates because of lower listings.

Tech earnings, Fed on tap

Markets have plenty to digest after Tuesday's bell, as well as in the sessions ahead. Earnings from Magnificent 7 stocks start tonight with Microsoft and Alphabet. By late Thursday, five mega-cap tech sector and communications services stocks with a combined market value of more than $10 trillion will have reported results.

This deluge of potentially market-moving tech earnings coincides with the next Fed meeting. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged at a 22-year high when it wraps up Wednesday afternoon.

What market participants really care about is the timing of the Fed's first quarter-point rate cut. Fed Chief Jerome Powell is expected to push back on expectations for a March cut. 

"This week's Fed meeting is likely to be a snoozer," says Lauren Goodwin, economist and chief market strategist at New York Life Investments.

SLB slides on Saudi oil cap

General Motors (GM), JetBlue (JBLU) and United Parcel Service (UPS) were stocks that found themselves in focus today after reporting earnings. SLB (SLB) didn't post earnings, but it too found itself in focus, and for unfortunate reasons.

Shares in the oilfield services giant fell more than 10% at one point during the session after Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company moved to lower its maximum capacity target, sparking concerns about global demand. 

SLB pared its loss for the day but is still off more than 13% over the past 52 weeks on concerns about global energy demand. Peers Baker Hughes (BKR) and Halliburton (HAL) also slumped Tuesday. 

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Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.