Wall Street saw another lackluster session on Tuesday, repeating Monday's performance and further consolidating gains posted last week.
Concerns about Europe kept the major averages in check, leading to a mixed performance for the day. Drawn-out talks about restructuring Greece's massive debt contributed to the cautious attitude on Wall Street. There were also worries that Portugal might be facing another debt-related crisis.
Meanwhile, earnings news dominated the corporate headlines, with reports from such heavyweights as McDonald's (MCD), Verizon (VZ) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
The Dow dropped 33.07 points, or 0.26 percent, to close at 12,675.75. The Nasdaq edged up 2.47 points, or 0.09 percent, to end at 2,786.64. The S&P 500 ended the day lower by 1.35 points, or 0.10 percent, to finish at 1,314.65.
McDonald's (MCD) lost ground after the release of its quarterly results, as traders took profits after a significant run-up over the last few months. The fast-food chain said its fourth quarter net income rose to $1.38 billion, fueled by broad-based growth across all areas of the world. This topped the expectation of market analysts.
Shares of McDonald's fell 2.2 percent.
Verizon (VZ) also declined following the release of its quarterly figures. The stock slipped 1.6 percent.
The telecommunications giant posted a loss for its fourth quarter, with the bottom line weighed down by the impact of non-cash pension charges. Excluding one-time items, Verizon recorded a profit that topped expectations.
DuPont's (DD) profit edged down less than a percent, with the figure coming in above analysts' expectations. Revenue climbed 13 percent and the company reaffirmed its 2012 forecast. The stock was basically flat on the day, recovering from an early loss.
A lackluster report put pressure on shares of Texas Instruments (TXN). The company said its fourth quarter profit dropped 68% from last year. The company was hurt by weak demand, costs associated the company's acquisition of rival National Semiconductor and restructuring charges related to the planned closures of 2 older plants. Texas Instruments also gave a cautious forecast for the first quarter.
Shares of TXN slipped 2 percent.
Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) quarterly profit plunged from last year, hurt by a $2.9 billion charge related to issues like a hip replacement recall. Excluding these items, earnings were up nearly 10 percent and better than analysts had foreseen.
Shares of J&J ended the day unchanged.
Politics remained a key subject on Wall Street during the day. The remaining Republican candidates sparred in yet another debate last night, as they prepare for the key Florida primary on January 31.
Tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address. The economy is expected to be a central part of the speech.
The Federal Reserve will be the key topic of economic conversation on Wednesday. The central bank is set to announce its latest policy decision. There is no change expected in interest rates. However, the Fed will be putting into place a new communications strategy.
The Fed's outlook for the future will be scrutinized. Economic news toward the end of the 2011 pointed to the possibility of a burgeoning recovery, especially an improvement in the employment numbers. However, some recent evidence has suggested that the economy remains somewhat fragile.
Inflation has remained under control in the latest reports, which keeps the door open for an accommodative Fed policy to continue.
Wednesday will also see the release of the pending home sales index, a measure of home sales that have been signed but have not yet closed. Mortgage applications data are due out as well.
On the earnings front, Boeing (BA) and United Technologies (UTX) will be among the big-name companies to report on Wednesday. Investors will also digest fresh results from Apple (AAPL) and Yahoo (YHOO), which are set to release earnings Wednesday afternoon.
by RTT Staff Writer
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