Normally Bullish April Off To Slow Start On Wall Street

The month of April and the second quarter got off to a slow start on Wall Street, though recent historical trends still weigh in favor of the bulls: April has been the Dow's best month since 1950 with an average gain of 2.7 percent. The Dow and the S&P 500 have both alternated between gains and losses for the past eight sessions.

U.S. automakers will be releasing their March sales figures throughout the morning, with predicting the biggest sales month since May 2007. Edmunds sees General Motors chalking up the largest year-over-year gain of the major automakers with an 8.8 percent increase.

The government will issue February factory orders at 10 a.m. ET, with economists looking for a 3.0 percent increase following January's 2.0 percent drop.

The earnings calendar is light today, with spice maker McCormick (MKC) one of the few companies set to release quarterly numbers this morning.

Health care insurance stocks are in the spotlight this morning, after the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services says it will increase fee payment rates by 3.3 percent in 2014. That's a reversal of the 2.3 percent drop projected last month, and followed intense lobbying from the health insurance industry. The late news boosted shares of Humana (HUM), Dow component UnitedHealth Group (UNH), and Aetna (AET), among others, in after-hours trading.

Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ) is a stock to watch today, as it announces the acquisition of the eSpeed trading platform for U.S. Treasuries from BGC partners for $750 million. Nasdaq has been trying to expand into non-stock asset classes because of falling stock trading volumes.

Dell (DELL) employees received a letter from CEO Michael Dell Monday, saying the computer maker's best days are still ahead though he sees a lot of new work that needs to be done. The letter details the company's strategic plans in conjunction with Michael Dell's proposal to take the company private.

Nuance Communications (NUAN) one of the newest holdings for investor Carl Icahn, who has disclosed a 9.27 percent passive stake in an SEC filing. Nuance is a maker of speech conversion software.

Citigroup (C) is seeing its $590 million settlement with shareholders questioned by a Manhattan federal judge, who has asked the lawyers in the case to address several issues at a hearing next week. The suit had accused the bank of hiding billions in toxic mortgage assets.

AstraZeneca (AZN) is considering its next legal steps, after a U.S. court ruled that a patent protecting the drug maker's Pulmicort asthma treatment is invalid. That clears the way for a generic version from Actavis (ACT).

Facebook (FB) is in the process of buying online dating site Bang With Friends, according to TechCrunch. The price of the tentative deal is said to be $30 million in cash and stock.

Shoe Carnival (SCVL) reported fourth quarter profit in line with Street estimates, but its revenues were short of predictions and its current quarter outlook is considerably below current analyst estimates. The footwear retailer says its spring selling season has gotten off to a slow start.