Market Snapshot: Stock market poised for flat open amid earnings barrage, ahead of Fed meeting

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U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a flat open on Tuesday, as the latest round of corporate earnings failed to impress and investors focused on the start of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting later in the day and fresh developments in global trade.

What are the main benchmarks doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMM8, -0.23%  fell 30 points, or 0.2%, to 24,096, while those for the S&P 500 ESM8, -0.10%  gave up 1.25 points, or 0.1%, to 2,645.75. Nasdaq-100 futures NQM8, -0.17%  fell 4 points, or less than 0.1%, at 6,609.50

The moves come after a negative session on Monday, when the Dow DJIA, -0.61%  pulled back 0.6%, the S&P 500 SPX, -0.82%  dropped 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.75%  gave up 0.8%.

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For the month of April, the blue-chip gauge logged a 0.3% gain, cutting its year-to-date loss to 2.3%. The S&P rose 0.3% in April, but is still down 1% in 2018. The tech-laden Nasdaq rose less than 0.1% on the month, with a year-to-date advance of 2.4%.

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What’s driving markets?

The Federal Reserve will draw attention, as policy makers are slated to start a two-day meeting Tuesday. When it wraps its meeting on Wednesday, the central bank is expected to leave interest rates on hold and signal no change to a tightening path of two more rate increases in 2018, even given bond yields and inflation have been rising faster than expected.

See: Why the Fed could make 4 rate hikes this year

The U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel imports are in focus again. President Donald Trump late Monday gave top allies—the European Union, Canada and Mexico—an extension to the tariff exemption to allow more time negotiate a new pact to avoid the levies. The tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% aluminum—already in effect against China, Russia, Japan and others—were slated to come into effect on May 1, but have now been pushed back to June 1.

“The U.S. decision prolongs market uncertainty, which is already affecting business decisions,” the European Commission said in response. “The EU should be fully and permanently exempted from these measures, as they cannot be justified on the grounds of national security.”

Trade relations have been a driver of action on stock markets recently, though the spotlight has been on tensions between the U.S. and China. Traders are likely to watch U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s visit to China this week for high-level trade talks.

What are strategists saying?

“The stock market has been generally moving sideways for weeks. Investors aren’t taking advantage of the strong earnings because there’s also a lot of potentially negative news out there, between tariffs, the prospect of the Fed acting more aggressively, and so forth,” said Jon Maier, chief investment officer at Global X Funds.

“Now that we’re nearing the end of the earnings season, how much better can we expect the news to get? What will the impetus for our getting out of this range? Remember, just because we get out of the range, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because we broke out of it. We can also fall below what we’ve seen lately.”

Read more: Stock-market bulls lose hope as indexes trade in a tight range

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Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Boeing Co. BA, -2.15%  rose 0.2% in thin premarket trade after the airplane maker said it plans to buy plane-parts specialist KLX Inc. KLXI, -2.27%  for $3.2 billion. KLX shares were down 7.3% ahead of the open.

Merck & Co. Inc. MRK, -1.01% reported a first-quarter profit beat and sales miss early Tuesday. Merck shares rose slightly in premarket trade.

Pfizer Inc. PFE, -1.05% shares declined 2.2% in premarket trade Tuesday after the company reported a first-quarter sales miss. Shares of the Dow component were trading 1.5% lower in the premarket.

Aetna Inc. AET, -0.46%  reported Tuesday that it swung to first-quarter net income of $1.21 billion, or $3.67 a share, from a loss of $381 million, or $1.11 a share, in the same period a year ago. Shares rose 0.5% in the premarket.

U.S.-listed shares of BP PLC BP, +0.84% rose ahead of the bell even after the oil giant reported its strongest quarterly profit since mid-2014, lifted by higher oil prices and rising production.

Shares of Tenet Healthcare Corp. THC, -1.36%  were up 5.7% in premarket trade after the company’s first-quarter earnings topped expectations late Monday.

Shares of Archer Daniels Midland Co. ADM, -1.45% rose in premarket trading Tuesday as the company reported first-quarter earnings that topped analyst expectations.

Under Armour Inc. UAA, -0.39% shares rose 2.1% in Tuesday premarket trading after the athletic company reported first-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations.

In the news, Vista Outdoor Inc. VSTO, +0.42% could be in focus after it announced a business plan, in which it will focus on its core brands in ammunition, hunting and shooting accessories, hydration bottles and packs and outdoor cooking products. Shares weren’t being traded in premarket.

And then after the market closes, Apple Inc. AAPL, +1.81% Mondelez International Inc. MDLZ, -1.08% Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD, -2.21%  and Snap Inc. SNAP, +0.70%  are expected to report.

Which data are in focus?

The Markit manufacturing purchasing managers index for April is due at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time, followed by the ISM manufacturing index for the same month at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Construction spending data for March are slated for release at 10 a.m. Eastern as well, while monthly auto sales will trickle out through the day.

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

What are other markets doing?

European stocks SXXP, +0.01%  were little changed, with most markets closed for the May Day or Labor Day holiday. U.K. stocks UKX, +0.45%  rose, boosted by a sliding pound GBPUSD, -0.7483% after a reading on manufacturing activity fell to a 17-month low.  

Many markets in Asia were also closed for the holiday. Stocks in Japan NIK, +0.18%  closed 0.2% higher.

Gold futures GCM8, -0.75%  dropped 0.7%, while oil futures CLM8, -1.09%  slid 1%. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.47%  was up 0.4% to 92.230, after capping its best month since February 2017 on Monday.