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Here's why markets are in 'no man's land'

Traders will watch reports on services sector activity and international trade data Tuesday, but markets could remain subdued until the real action starts later in the week.

Stocks finished a quiet Monday with slight gains, and Treasury yields moved higher at the long end of the curve. Traders await Friday's jobs report, expected to show 228,000 nonfarm payrolls for April, up from 126,000 for March.

"At this point, you're sort of in a no man's land waiting for Friday's number," said Daniel Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. The S&P 500 closed higher, up 6 points at 2,114, three points shy of its all time high. Financials led the gains.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The fact that U.K. and Japanese markets were closed Monday was blamed for lackluster trading in Treasurys which last week saw yields move higher in line with German bunds. Japanese markets are closed again Tuesday.

The 10-year Treasury yield Monday moved higher to 2.13 percent, but yields were lower at the short end of the curve. Strategists said the 10-year and 30-year bond yields were setting up for a technical move higher, as the 30-year broke its 200-day moving average at 2.87 percent.

International trade data is released at 10 a.m. Tuesday. "If exports are up a lot tomorrow, I would think that is something that could keep 10-year yields firm, keep them well above 2.00," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

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The strong dollar has been one of the factors blamed for a dip in exports. Economists expect the March trade deficit to widen to $42.5 billion versus negative $35.4 billion.

Deutsche Bank's chief U.S. economist Joseph LaVorgna said the impact of the West Coast port slowdown is hard to determine, and trade data forecasts are error prone, making for wide swings in GDP revisions.

J.P. Morgan economist Daniel Silver said net exports knocked 1.3 percent off of the advance report on first quarter GDP, more than expected. He also noted that the second-quarter trade data could have challenges as well, since there seems to have been a surge in inbound container traffic in March but modest growth in outbound export traffic.

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There is also ISM nonmanufacturing data at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday. It's expected to be about flat, at 56.3, compared to last month's 56.5. There is an employment component to the report that traders will be watching for clues on hiring in the services sector.

Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies, said the employment component could be good after a strong showing by New York NAPM data Monday. The services sector is the biggest contributor to nonfarm payrolls.

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McCarthy is looking for April payrolls to increase to 260,000. "March is the outlier so far, and most of the jobs come from the service sector," he said.

Besides the data, there are some big earnings before the bell including Disney, UBS, Archer Daniels Midland, Estee Lauder, Kellogg, Sprint, Hyatt, Noble Energy, Vulcan Materials and Zoetis before the bell. NewsCorp, Electronic Arts, Groupon, Weight Watchers, Zulily, Lending Club, Allstate, Herbalife, Newfield Exploration and SolarCity report after the closing bell.

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