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Washington could be epicenter of market risks Tuesday

  • Washington could very well be at the heart of any major market moves Tuesday, with a number of major events expected.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies on Capitol Hill, and Facebook and other social media stocks could be affected by the tone of senators grilling Zuckerberg, as well as his answers.
  • The White House is expected to respond to the chemical attacks on Syria in the next day or two.
  • The FBI raided the home and office of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, and markets will be watching for any further developments in the Mueller investigation.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) leaves after a meeting with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, April 9, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) leaves after a meeting with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, April 9, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

There's a good chance Washington will be at the epicenter of any market shocks Tuesday.

With Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress; the anticipated White House response to Syria's chemical attack, and any number of shoes potentially ready to drop in the Mueller investigation or the trade battle with China, Washington will likely be at the heart of what moves the market Tuesday.

Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, appears before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees in Washington on data privacy, after Facebook allowed a political data firm to extract information on millions of its users.

"I think every day could be a dicey day. I don't see any reason that volatility is going to lighten up anytime soon," said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "I think it's a Washington day all week. The economic calendar is light with the exception of PPI and CPI." Producer price inflation is reported at 8:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, and consumer inflation data is released Wednesday.

Stocks were higher most of Monday but turned in the final hour as selling accelerated into the close. Just before the closing bell, The New York Times reported that the FBI raided the office of President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, seeking records related to several topics, including the payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels. Stocks closed slightly higher.

The raid came after the New York federal prosecutor issued a search warrant for attorney Michael Cohen's home and office following a referral from special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's influence on the election and any potential ties to the Trump campaign.

Frederick said the Cohen headlines caught the market unaware and added selling pressure. "The risks may have been realized. I'm not sure it's a risk for tomorrow," he said.

"There is a risk for Facebook stock," he said. "Facebook is part of the FANG group. ... It's the spillover that we have to be aware of. We don't know what's going to come out of it. When there's uncertainty people get a little nervous and sell."

Analysts said the Federal Bureau of Investigation raid on Cohen adds uncertainty, but it doesn't imply anything new about the president.

"It certainly adds another element of confusion and uncertainty surrounding Trump. You've got to think Mueller is getting close to some indictments," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR.

Facebook and other social media stocks could be affected by the tone of senators grilling Zuckerberg as well as by his answers. Zuckerberg also appears before Congress on Wednesday.

Analysts said a concern for Facebook, as well as other companies such as Google or Twitter, is that there could be overreach as regulators try to rein them in, as well as a defection of advertisers.

"This is a new layer of concern in this market, shifting our focus away from trade policy to who knew what when," said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.

"You know [Zuckerberg's] going to get a public flogging. He's going to sound contrite and promise to make changes. These hearings may actually energize his opponents," he said.

Another risk markets are anticipating is the White House response to a chemical attack in Syria, which Trump said could be the work of the Syrian government, Iran, Russia or all three. Trump promised a "major response" within 24 to 48 hours.

Oil prices moved higher on the increased geopolitical risk but also amid the absence of any new negative trade developments Monday. West Texas Intermediate crude futures settled at $63.42, a gain of 2.2 percent Monday.

"Syria's not an oil producer. Hitting Syria on its own, if it doesn't get escalated beyond that, it probably has very little impact. However, what it will do is psychologically get the Middle East geopolitical temperature ratcheted up," said Bart Melek, TD Securities head of commodities strategy.

Trade will also stay a hot topic for markets, and the lack of new rhetoric steadied markets for most of the day.

Administration officials tamped down some concern about trade wars. White House top economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Trump was warning China about its practices.

"This president's got some backbone, others didn't, and he's raising the issue in full public view, setting up a process that may include tariffs. Hopefully, it will be mostly negotiations," Kudlow said on "Squawk on the Street." "I don't know if we'll have tariffs or not."

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