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Stocks slip after lackluster earnings from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup

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How investors should approach earnings season

Stocks closed slightly lower on Monday as investors digested mixed quarterly numbers from big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 27.53 points to 26,384.77, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.1% to 2,905.58. The Nasdaq Composite ended the day down 0.1% at 7,976.01.

Goldman Sachs reported better-than-expected earnings as the bank kept compensation in check, but its revenue came in below analyst expectations as sales from its institutional clients division dropped by 18%. Shares of Goldman dropped 3.8%, posting its biggest one-day decline since Dec. 21.

Meanwhile, Citigroup earnings topped expectations as the company repurchased more than $4 billion in stock. However, a 20% fall in its equity trading division contributed to a 2% fall in overall revenue, which disappointed analysts. Citigroup shares dipped 0.1%.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, March 22, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup released their earnings after J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo posted their results on Friday. J.P. Morgan Chase's numbers lifted the broad market on Friday, with the Dow gaining more than 260 points. Wells, meanwhile, fell on a profit warning from its chief financial officer.

Despite the varied results from the big banks, the overall earnings season is off to a solid start. Of the companies that have reported, 85% have topped analyst earnings expectations, according to FactSet.

"This is because 1Q 2019 EPS estimates were cut at the steepest rate(s) than for any other quarter in over three years," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout, in a note. "Can you say low earnings bars to clear this earnings season?"

"The most important stat though during 1Q 2019 earnings season is how the next quarter," Raich said. "The bad news is the magnitude of the EPS estimates cuts, are greater than normal. The good news is the EPS estimate revisions are less bad than last quarter."

Other companies that reported quarterly earnings on Monday include Charles Schwab and M&T Bank.

Wall Street also pored through the latest news on the trade front. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday the U.S. is willing to take a penalty if it does not comply with a China trade deal once the two countries reach one. However, Mnuchin said Monday the two sides had a lot of work left ahead of them.

Equities rallied to start off 2019 amid expectations that China and the U.S. would strike a trade deal in the near future, while the Federal Reserve held a more accommodative policy stance. The S&P 500 traded less than 2% from its all-time high set in September.

"As long as trade talks with China appear to be progressing, the stock market can look forward to blue skies for the next 4 weeks as 1st quarter earnings are revealed," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics, in a note to clients. "In gauging the potential for a rally in stocks to continue, it is always comforting to see muted investor sentiment, as this is a contrary indicator."

—CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.