Fed meeting begins, a North American trade deal, economic data: 3 things to watch for Tuesday

Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2019.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Here are the most important things to know about Tuesday before you hit the door.

1. Fed meeting begins

Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee starts its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday. Markets widely expect the central bank to hold interest rates steady at the conclusion of the meeting Wednesday after cutting rates for three straight times this year.

"The dot plot and Chair Powell's press conference should suggest that policy will remain on hold for the foreseeable future (although the Fed will ease if conditions warrant)," Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said in a note on Monday.

As revealed in the minutes from its October policy meeting, "most" FOMC members saw the cuts this year as enough "to support the outlook of moderate growth, a strong labor market, and inflation" near its 2% target.

2. A North American trade deal?

While the U.S. and China face a Dec. 15 deadline in the form new tariffs as they seek to reach a phase one agreement, the Trump administration marched closer to a trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

House Democrats and the Trump administration are near a deal to replace the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement after more than a year of deliberations, sources told CNBC.

If the White House sends ratifying legislation to Congress by Dec. 15 to kick off the approval process, the Democratic-held House could vote on ratifying the USMCA by Dec. 18, sources told CNBC. The USMCA vote could come in the immediate aftermath of a vote on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sources said.

3. Small business optimism, productivity

We'll get a read of small-business owners' confidence in the U.S. economy. The National Federation of Independent Business will release its latest Small Business Optimism Index for November on Tuesday.

Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the index to climb 0.4 point to 102.8. Small-business activity in the U.S. accounts for nearly half of private-sector jobs.

Investors will digest other economic data on Tuesday including non-farm productivity and unit labor costs.

Major events (all times ET):

10:00 a.m. SEC chairman Jay Clayton testifies to U.S. Senate committee

11:00 a.m. NFIB Business Optimism Index Nov.

1:30 p.m. Labor Costs Revised Q3

1:30 p.m. Productivity Revised Q3

Earnings (all times ET):

AutoZone (before the bell)

HD Supply Holdings (before the bell)

Designer Bands (before the bell)

GameStop (after the bell)

Dave & Buster's (after the bell)