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Stocks close mixed as Apple jumps ahead of earnings

CNBC logo CNBC 5/1/2018 Fred Imbert and Alexandra Gibbs

The Nasdaq composite rose Tuesday, led by gains in Apple ahead of the tech giant's quarterly earnings release.

The tech-heavy index ended 0.9 percent higher as Apple climbed 1.6 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.25 percent, erasing earlier losses as Apple's gains pushed the technology sector 1 percent higher. The Dow finished 64 points lower, regaining much of an earlier loss of more than 300 points. 

Apple was scheduled to report fiscal-second-quarter earnings and revenue Tuesday after the close. Apple is the largest publicly traded company in the U.S., with a market cap of nearly $850 billion.

"Tonight's earnings release from [Apple] will likely keep most fundamental investors from making aggressive changes to their risk," said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities, in a note to clients. But "even if [Apple CEO] Tim Cook lays an egg tonight, most analysts will assess the Q1 reporting season as an unmitigated success."

Of the S&P 500 companies that have reported thus far, 80 percent have posted better-than-expected earnings, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Merck, Pfizer, Aetna, and Archer Daniels Midland all reported stronger-than-forecast results before the bell Tuesday.

Tuesday marked the first trading day of May, which kicks off a historically rough period for the market. The major indexes posted their first monthly gains last month.

Investors also looked to Washington as the Fed began a two-day monetary policy meeting.

Market participants are not expecting any alterations to interest rates. However, investors will be on the lookout for clues about the central bank's views on inflation and the economy.

"The bad news is that inflationary pressures are building. The good news is that Fed officials must be doing a victory dance," said Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, in a note. "That's because they've been trying to boost the inflation rate closer to their 2.0% target ever since they publicly announced it at the start of 2012."

"Now that their mission seems to have been accomplished, Fed officials are likely to stay on their announced course of gradually tightening monetary policy," Yardeni said.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 100 points, with Boeing falling 1.3 percent and contributing the most to the losses.

Boeing's losses pushed the aerospace sector lower The iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (ITA) dropped 1.8 percent and was on track to post its first six-day losing streak since November 2017.

In economic data news, the ISM manufacturing index hit 57.3 in April.


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