NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are drifting Tuesday as Wall Street waits to hear from some of its most influential companies, and whether their huge rally this year was justified.
The S&P 500 was 0.1% higher in early trading, near its highest level in more than 15 months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was virtually unchanged at 34,410, as of 9:40 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher.
General Electric was helping to lead the market as earnings reporting season picks up momentum. GE rallied 6% after it reported stronger profit for the spring than analysts expected. It also raised its forecasts for full-year revenue and profits.
Another industrial giant, 3M, rose 4.5% after the maker of Scotch-Brite and Post-It raised its forecast for profits for the full year thanks in part to cost cutting efforts. That was despite its reporting a loss for the spring largely due to a $10.3 billion charge related to its settlement over what are known as “forever chemicals.”
On the losing side of Wall Street were airline stocks, led by Alaska Air Group. It fell despite reporting stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than expected. Analysts said investors may have been disappointed with its forecasts for the current quarter. Other airlines also sank, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, though they’re both still up roughly 40% for the year so far.
This week is a busy one for earnings reports, and roughly 30% of the companies in the S&P 500 are on the schedule. Attention turns next to two behemoths that will report after trading closes Tuesday, Alphabet and Microsoft.
They are two of the seven stocks behind the majority of the S&P 500’s nearly 19% gain through the first half of the year. Both are up at least 37% for the year so far on expectations they’ll continue to dominate the market and deliver strong growth, and the numbers they produce in the afternoon will offer more clues about whether those expectations are reasonable.
This week’s other highlight for Wall Street is also getting underway Tuesday: the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting on interest rates.
The wide expectation is for the Fed on Wednesday to announce another increase to interest rates, as it tries to get high inflation under control. That would take the federal funds rate to a range of 5.25% to 5.50%, its highest level since 2001 and up from virtually zero early last year.
High rates grind down on inflation by slowing the entire economy and hurting prices for stocks and other investments. The hope among traders is Wednesday’s move will be the final increase of this cycle because inflation has been cooling since last summer.
Such hopes, along with rising belief that the economy can avoid a long-predicted recession, have helped stocks rally strongly this year.
But many on Wall Street warn the Fed is unlikely to give any signals on Wednesday that it’s done raising rates. Inflation is still high, even if it’s moderated somewhat, and the economy may have to “yield to a long but shallow recession if the Fed is to return inflation to its 2% target,” according to Steven Ricchiuto, US chief economist at Mizuho Securities.
In the bond market, yields were mixed for Treasurys.
The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 3.91% from 3.88% late Monday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.
The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on the market’s expectations for Fed action, slipped to 4.87% from 4.92%.
In markets abroad, stock indexes were mixed.
Stocks jumped 4.1% in Hong Kong and 2.1% in Shanghai. Chinese leaders have promised measures to boost sluggish economic growth by supporting real estate sales and other struggling sectors but gave no details and didn’t mention possible stimulus spending.
Indexes moved more modestly around the rest of the world.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed.