The Dow struggled to hold on to the 11,000 mark Tuesday after Alcoa missed its revenue target.
The Dow on Monday ended above 11,000for the first time since September 2008 — which was on the way down — and the S&P came within a point of the key 1,200 mark.
Earnings season kicked off with a thud Monday: Alcoa delivered a modest profit, as expected, but missed on revenue for the first time since 2007.
Overall, analysts expect eanings to be decent: S&P 500 earnings are expected to rise 36.8 percent, according to the latest Thomson Reuters estimate.
Alcoa was the biggest drag on the Dow this morning, down more than 1 percent, as JPMorgan and UBS both weighed in with negative comments about the company. UBS cut its forecast for Alcoa while JPMorgan said little had changed since its downgrade last week.
Boeing and Cisco rounded out the Dow's bottom three.
The 30-component index was split down the middle, with about half higher and half lower. Home Depot and Intel were among the gainers.
Intel reports earnings after the bell today, as does railroad operator CSX .
The market's early mood also soured on a report from the National Federation of Independent Business which said its members have grown more pessimistic about the economy.
Adding even more pressure, separate reports this morning showed the US trade deficit widened in February and import and export prices rose 0.7 percent in March.
Bank stocks took a hit after UBS slashed its rating on the regional banks to "sell," citing sluggish recoveries on the credit, residiential real-estate and commercial real-estate fronts. Among individual banks it cut to "sell" were: KeyCorp, Huntington Bancshares, Regions Financial and TCF Financial.
Big bank earnings start this week with reports from JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.
Oil pricesfell for a fifth straight session, dropping below $84 a barreland nearly erasing all of April's gains, amid worries about rising inventory and weak demand.
Toyota Motor shares fell after Consumer Reports rated the battered automaker's Lexus GX460 a "don't buy" based on a safety risk to its stability control system. Shares fell nearly 1 percent premarket after recovering some of their value with a 3.8 percent gain over the past month.
In Europe, Greece completed a $1.63 billion auction. of 6-month and 1-year Treasury bills. Yields were sparly higher than in recent auctions — 4.85 percent for the 1-years, 4.55 percent for the 6 months.
Twitter will start rolling out advertising Tuesday, according to multiple reports. It's considered a significant step to making the service profitable, an obviously important step toward an eventual public offering.
Three Federal Reserve speakers are on the day's agenda, although two of them will speak after the markets have closed. Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo speaks in Washington at 10:45 am, while Chairman Ben Bernanke and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker have speaking engagements at 7 pm and 7:15 pm respectively.
Nokia is due to unveil three new cheaper phone models with full keyboards and messaging capability, as it hopes to challenge the dominance of Research-In-Motion's BlackBerry.
Palm shares fell more than 10 percent, after a runup of about 60 percent in the past few weeks, as the news officially broke that the struggling hand-held maker has hired bankers to "explore its options" — which include finding a buyer.
Retailers were mostly higher ahead of the government's report on retail sales on Wednesday.
Talbots shares jumped over 5 percent after the women's clothing line, which has struggled in recent years, delivered strong earnings and an encouraging outlook.
TUESDAY: Fed's Lacker speaks; earnings from Intel after the bell
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps; CPI; government's retail-sales report; Fed's Pianalto, Lacker, Warsh & Fisher speak; business inventories, crude inventories; beige book; earnings from JPMorgan Chase
THURSDAY: Taxes due; Empire state manufacturing survey; industrial production; Philly Fed report; Fed's Lacker, Bullard & Lockhart speak; housing-market index; earnings from Google, AMD
FRIDAY: State unemployment rates; housing starts; Fed's Warsh speaks; consumer sentiment; earnings from Bank of America, GE, Mattel & Gannett
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