Stocks finished Monday’s lackluster session narrowly mixed, as investors made few moves ahead of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates, expected Tuesday afternoon. Record earnings from Exxon Mobil Corp. and evidence of strong consumer spending gave the market little momentum.
Investors welcomed the Commerce Department’s latest report on consumer spending, which rose 0.9 percent in December. Though personal incomes rose just 0.4 percent, the strong consumer spending bespoke of continued confidence in the economy despite high energy prices.
Yet the report also showed prices remaining in check — good news for investors concerned about inflation. Despite that, many investors held off on making sharp moves before Tuesday’s Fed meeting. The Fed is expected to raise rates by a quarter percentage point to 4.5 percent, but Wall Street expects a signal that the central bank will stop hiking rates.
“It’s really a question of the economy and what the Fed’s going to do, and that’s not something you’re going to see a big move on in a single day,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. “Nothing’s giving us those big knee-jerk reactions, so you’re seeing things kind of wishy-washy today.”
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 7.29 points, or 0.07 percent, at the close, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was up 1.48 points, or 0.12 percent. The Nasdaq composite index, full of technology stocks, gained 2.55 points, or 0.11 percent.
Bonds moved lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.53 percent from 4.51 percent late Friday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies.
Oil prices rose modestly even after a top Saudi Arabian official said his country has no intention of cutting production, and that prices were too high. A barrel of light crude settled at $68.35, up 59 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“Certainly, part of the market’s worries right now stem from oil,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “You still have instability in the Middle East, and there’s a fear that prices will move dramatically higher.”
While higher oil prices failed to dramatically harm economic growth last year, there’s a concern that more price hikes could either slow the economy or spark inflation — which makes Tuesday’s Fed decision all the more important.
High oil prices remain good news for Exxon Mobil, which set a record for quarterly profits by any U.S. company with $10.71 billion. The oil company benefited from high oil prices and strong demand, and beat Wall Street’s forecasts by 19 cents per share. Exxon Mobil climbed $1.82 to $63.11.
Eastman Kodak Co. lost 62 cents to $25.75 after reporting its fifth straight quarterly loss, though the company nonetheless beat Wall Street’s loss forecasts. The company, which is undergoing a difficult transition to digital photography, saw sales of its digital products climb 45 percent in the quarter.
Fourth-quarter profit at toy maker Mattel Inc. slipped 2 percent due to slow sales of its Barbie and Hot Wheels products. The company exceeded analysts’ profit estimates, though revenues fell short. Mattel, which also announced another $250 million for its stock buyback program, rose $1.02 to $15.80.
Google Inc. slumped $6.67 to $426.82 prior to its quarterly earnings release, due after the session. The Internet company was expected to post profits up 91 percent from the year-ago quarter.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.55 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.12, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.4 percent for the session and Germany’s DAX index climbed 0.22 percent.