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Stocks end a wobbly day mixed, S&P 500 still near record

Stock indexes closed out a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street with a mixed finish Tuesday, leaving the S&P 500 index just below its all-time high.

The benchmark index slipped less than 0.1% after wavering between small gains and losses for much of the day. Losses in technology, health care, communication services and other sectors in the index outweighed gains in banks, industrial stocks and energy companies. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also ended up essentially flat, while the Nasdaq fell.

The market’s choppy turn came as investors pored over a mixed batch of company quarterly report cards in what is the busiest week for earnings so far this season. UPS, Hasbro and Archer-Daniels-Midland were among the winners after delivering results that impressed traders. Among the losers: Tesla, Eli Lilly and General Electric.

Investors expect U.S. corporate results due out this week to show stronger profits as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out and as consumer spending strengthens.

“What’s more of a focus is really the guidance they’re giving, looking further into 2021 and beyond,” said Greg Bassuk, chairman and CEO of AXS Investments. “A lot of companies are trying to figure ultimately when the COVID-19 cloud is really going to lift.”

The S&P 500 lost 0.90 points to 4,186.72. The index was coming off its latest all-time high. The Dow barely recovered from an early slide, adding 3.36 points, or less than 0.1%, to 33,984.93. The Nasdaq fell 48.56 points, or 0.3%, to 14,090.22. The tech-heavy index also set a record high on Monday.

Smaller companies fared better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index inched up 3.26 points, or 0.1%, to 2,301.27.

The market has been choppy over the last few weeks as investors gauge how companies fared during the first quarter and any other information that can help paint a clearer picture of where the economy is headed. UPS vaulted 10.4% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after reporting another surge in delivery volumes as well as profits that came in well ahead of what investors were expecting.

Tesla, whose stock has been soaring over the past year, fell 4.5% despite reporting stronger sales of electric vehicles.

General Electric fell 0.6% after the troubled industrial giant reported a double-digit drop in revenue and a quarter loss, as the company continues to struggle in its turnaround plan. GE’s stock has been volatile this year, soaring as much as 80%.

Microsoft fell 3.1% in after-hours trading following the release of its quarterly results.

Beyond earnings, investors are watching the latest economic reports for more clues about the pace and scale of the economic recovery. Consumer confidence rose sharply for a second straight month in April, hitting the highest level since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, U.S. home prices rose in February at the fastest pace in nearly seven years as strong demand for housing collided with a tight supply of homes on the market.

The Federal Reserve starts a two-day policy meeting Tuesday. Investors expect the U.S. central bank to keep its key lending rate close to zero and inject more money into the financial system through bond purchases.

Bond yields remained relatively stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.62% from 1.57% late Monday.

Also in Washington, Wall Street will be paying attention to President Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. The speech is expected to lay out several parts of President Biden’s agenda, which will include increased infrastructure spending, likely higher taxes on the wealthy as well as higher funding for government programs.

“The question is what does it mean, not only for corporate taxes, but also personal taxes?” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

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