Stocks close slightly lower as the rally takes a breather before big tech gains

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The S&P 500 slipped slightly from a record high on Tuesday as Wall Street prepared for the heart of corporate earnings season, including reports from a number of blue-chip companies and big tech players.

The broad equity benchmark fell 0.2% to 3,849.57 after hitting a new intraday high at the start of the session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.90 points, or 0.1%, to 30,937.10. At one point, the 30-stock benchmark was trading more than 150 points higher. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.1% from a record high to 13,626.06.

General Electric stocks rose 2.7% in the fourth quarter against better-than-expected industrial free cash flow and rosy outlook for the year. Johnson & Johnson rose more than 2% after the drugmaker’s profits beat expectations. 3M was also up 3.3% after strong results.

Tech giant Microsoft will announce its second quarter results after the bell. Microsoft’s shares rose more than 1%. Apple, Facebook, Caterpillar and Tesla are expected to report back later this week.

In sharply shortened stocks, including GameStop and AMC Entertainment, volatility increased again as avid private investors active in chat rooms continued to oppose short-selling by hedge funds. The volatility has worried some investors that stocks are pulling away from fundamentals as speculation is rampant.

“The short squeeze / volatility we’ve seen in sharply downturned stocks like GameStop and others only further confirms that at least in the short term, complacent / foamy investor sentiment is the greatest short-term risk to stocks,” said Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report said in a note Tuesday.

GameStop hit another 92.7% record on Tuesday. AMC grew by more than 12%.

Companies started the winning season with a high beat rate. Of the S&P 500 components that have already reported profits, over 70% have exceeded Wall Street expectations for sales and earnings, according to Bank of America.

“The combination of virus control and political support should support economic growth this year and encourage broader industry participation in the economy and a strong recovery in earnings in later quarters,” said Lauren Goodwin, economist and portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments .

The Biden government announced Tuesday that it could be open to optimizing suitability for future stimulus testing. President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion proposal calls for direct deposits of $ 1,400. However, the plan has been criticized by a non-partisan group of lawmakers because of its high price.

Coronavirus cases have hit more than 100 million cases worldwide in just 13 months as mutations increase the spread. Moderna said Monday that its vaccine offers some protection against a variant found in South Africa, while officials in Minnesota reported the first US-confirmed case of a strain found in Brazil.

Investors also waited for a new Federal Reserve policy statement as the central bank began its two-day meeting on Tuesday.

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen was confirmed as Treasury Secretary and was the first woman to hold the position.