U.S. equities rose on Tuesday, but traded off session highs, as energy weighed while investors focused on a slew of corporate earnings reports.
The S&P 500 chopped around the flatline, with energy falling more than 1 percent to lead decliners. Crude futures for March delivery fell 1.58 percent to settle at $52.17 per barrel amid concerns of higher U.S. shale production.
“Today, as opposed to two years ago, we’re looking at a commodity that’s not in short supply. That makes it a lot less of a long-term investment,” said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors. “This is really like a growth company that fesses up that it can’t grow anymore.”
The Dow Jones industrial average briefly rose more than 100 points, hitting a new record high, before holding about 40 points higher with Boeing contributing the most gains. The S&P 500 chopped around the flatline, with energy falling more than 1 percent.
“I think the market trading today is sort of indicative of people confused by everything that’s going on or investors squaring positions ahead of something,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. “I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, … but the market is in search of a catalyst to go higher.”
The Nasdaq composite reached a new all-time high and held about 0.15 percent higher.
General Motors, Archer Daniels Midland and Michael Kors were among the companies that reported before the bell. Disney, Gilead Sciences, Mondelez, Pioneer Natural Resources and Zillow are among many other companies due to report after the market close.
“We are having a pretty good earnings season. That’s really [supporting] the market here,” said Lisa Kopp, head of traditional investments at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “We see a generally higher trend for stocks, but with some volatility, for 2017.”
Calendar fourth-quarter earnings have mostly surprised analysts, with more than 65 percent of firms reporting better-than-expected earnings, according to data from The Earnings Scout.
“We’ve come into a period of time where we see fundamentals and earnings improve and you have to juxtapose that with everything that’s going on in Washington,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. “Let’s put this on a percentage basis: 50 percent of this move has been on the promise of tax cuts and deregulation, … but a lot of this stuff has to come to fruition.”
Stocks rallied sharply after President Donald Trump won the U.S. election, amid higher prospects of corporate tax cuts, deregulation and government spending. The major U.S. indexes have recently held around all-time highs as investors await for more details on the administration’s policies.
“I keep coming back to this, and that is we’ve moved 180 degrees to a business friendly environment in Washington,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. “A lot of people miss the fact that this is such a huge reversal from even the past 16 years.”
In economic news, the U.S. trade deficit last year reached its highest level since 2012. For the whole year, the deficit rose 0.4 percent to $502.3 billion, the Commerce Department said.
Other data released include the job openings and labor turnover survey, which showed job openings in the U.S. totaled 5.501 million at the end of December.
U.S. Treasury yields traded mixed on Tuesday after Philadelphia Federal Reserve president Patrick Harker said a March rate hike should be on the table. The benchmark 10-year note yield held near 2.38 percent, while the short-term two-year note yield traded around 1.14 percent.
“Regardless of what Harker thinks we know that it really only matters what Yellen, Fischer and Dudley think,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
“As it’s clear that the Fed only likes to raise rates on days where there is a press conference and they are scheduled for 4 this year at the same time they want to hike 3 times, they better get moving then. We still are calling for a March hike but the fed funds futures market barely blinked after Harker,” Boockvar said in a note.
Overseas, European equities traded mostly higher, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 index rising 0.32 percent. In Asia, stocks traded mostly lower, with the Shanghai composite falling 0.12 percent and the Nikkei 225 dropping 0.32 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,073, with Boeing leading advancer and Chevron the top decliner.
The S&P 500 fell 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,290, with energy leading seven sectors lower and consumer staples outperforming.
The Nasdaq composite gained just 1 point, or 0.03 percent, to 5,666.
About nine stocks declined for every five advancers at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 345 million and a composite volume of 1.688 billion in afternoon trade.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 11.5.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
On tap this week:
1:00 p.m. 3-year note auction
3:00 p.m. Consumer credit
Earnings: Time Warner, Glaxo SmithKline, Whole Foods, Prudential Financial, Carlyle Group, Alaska Air, Humana, Allergan, Rayonier, Suncor, Lions Gate, Owens Corning, Sanofi, Level 3 Communications, Jacobs Engineering
1:00 p.m. 10-year note auction
Earnings: Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Twitter, Yum Brands, Beazer Homes, Cummins, Total, Agrium, Occidental Petroleum, Nissan, Borg Warner, Dunkin Brands, Expedia, News Corp, Nvidia, Pandora Media, Activision Blizzard, Thomson Reuters, KKR
8:30 a.m. Initial claims
9:10 a.m. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard
10:00 a.m. Wholesale trade
1:00 p.m. 30-year bond auction
1:10 p.m. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans
Earnings: Aon, Calpine, Buckeye Partners, ArcelorMittal, Ventas, Nippon Telegraph, Interpublic
8:30 a.m. Import prices
10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment
2:00 p.m. Factory orders