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Stocks close mixed amid busiest week of earnings season

CNBC logo CNBC 1/29/2019 Fred Imbert

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended slightly higher Tuesday as Wall Street awaited the latest quarterly results from tech giant Apple.

But while the 30-stock index gained 51 points, the S&P 500 slipped 0.15 percent and the Nasdaq shed 0.8 percent.

Apple stock fell nearly 1 percent ahead of the company's report, which is scheduled for release after the close. The report comes after the iPhone maker slashed its revenue guidance for the previous quarter earlier this month, citing weaker growth in China.

"We view the overall risk/reward on AAPL as neutral," KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves wrote in a note last week. "While the Company's buyback and historically strong customer loyalty provide some measure of protection, we see little to cure the unit and pricing challenges faced in the iPhone segment."

This is the busiest week of the current earnings season. When the dust settles, more than 100 companies in the S&P 500 will have posted their quarterly results. Through Tuesday morning, more than 70 percent of the companies that have reported have beaten analyst expectations, according to FactSet data.

3M was among the companies that posted better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday, sending its stock up 1 percent before the bell. Allergan, Verizon and Biogen also posted stronger-than-forecast profits, but their shares fell. Pfizer shares gained 0.4 percent on earnings.

Market focus is also largely attuned to global trade developments, after prospects for a long-awaited U.S.-China trade deal were dealt another setback. It comes after Washington leveled sweeping charges against Beijing's telecom giant Huawei.

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The U.S. Department of Justice filed criminal charges Monday against Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder and president Ren Zhengfei.

The news comes shortly before Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to meet U.S. officials on Wednesday and Thursday. Market participants fear the jolt to Huawei could undermine the chances of the world's two largest economies reaching a comprehensive trade deal.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Tuesday, however, that President Donald Trump is "moderately optimistic" about China and the U.S. striking a deal before a March 1 deadline.

Investors also looked ahead to a monetary policy decision from the Federal Reserve. Market expectations for a rate hike being announced Wednesday afternoon are zero, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

The moves Tuesday come after the major indexes fell sharply on the back of disappointing guidance from Caterpillar and Nvidia. Both companies cited slowing growth in China for their forecasts.

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