Wallace Witkowski, Anora Mahmudova
Fresh all-time highs for the Nasdaq came as the Dow industrials failed to reach the psychologically significant level of 20,000 again, amid otherwise tepid enthusiasm for equities ahead of a news conference from President-elect Donald Trump set for Wednesday—his first since being elected on Nov. 8.
But the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.36% shined, finishing up 20.00 points, or 0.4%, at 5,551.82, for the sixth straight day in the green and marked its longest streak of all-time highs since Dec. 27, 1999, according to Dow Jones data.
Meanwhile, The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.00% ended at its flattest level in years, unchanged from Monday at 2,268.90. The broad-market gauge had been up by as many as 10 points earlier in the session. Five of the 11 main sectors closed lower, bookended by a 1.3% decline in the real-estate sector and a 0.4% gain in consumer-discretionary stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.16% which had traded up by as many as 70 points and within 43 of breaching the 20,000 mark earlier in the session, closed down 31.85 points, or 0.2%, at 19,855.53. Shares of Merck & Co. MRK, -1.93% and Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, -1.28% dragged on the benchmark.
Beyond, Trump’s comments, which could add clarity to his legislative agenda, market participants are awaiting the kick off earnings season for some support for the recent rally in U.S. stocks.
The market is looking for confirmation of stock valuations at current levels, and the only way to get that will be upbeat earnings, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.
Some of evidence of pre-Trump news conference jitters were on display in the dollar DXY, +0.28% which pulled back somewhat on Wednesday. The greenback was up about 0.1% against major currencies. The dollar has been rising on hopes that the new administration’s fiscal stimulus will boost the economy, but some analysts believe that bet may have been pushed too far, too fast.
“In the near term, there are a lot of things to worry about. For example, we might hear some chatter from the corporations about the sharp rise in the dollar, which will have an impact on their earnings in the next few quarters,” said Maris Ogg, president at Tower Bridge Advisors.
Ogg, however, isn't worried about stock markets over the next few years, in part because of expected deregulation.
Read: Goldman’s Hatzius says investors could get blindsided by Fed hikes this year
Trump’s news conference: Trump’s news conference is slated to occur at Trump Tower in New York at 11 a.m. Eastern. “If Donald Trump succeeds to cheer up investors at this week’s conference, we could see a fresh rally in the U.S. stocks and the U.S. dollar. Therefore, the upside risks prevail in the U.S. markets,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, in a note to investors.
Read: Here’s why Trump’s inauguration could mark a near-term top for stocks
“Basically Friday, we have two bank stocks coming up, and if they beat expectations both top and bottom line, I think we could see the Dow finally hit that 20,000 mark,” said Cardillo. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. JPM, +0.29% and Bank of America Corp. BAC, +1.73% among banks due to report Friday, closed up 0.3% and 1.7%, respectively.
Economic docket: No major economic reports were released Tuesday. The National Federation of Independent Business said its optimism index jumped 7.4 points to 105.8, the strongest reading since 2004. November job openings rose as did the number of people quitting jobs while wholesale inventories for November jumped 1%.
Stocks to watch: Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. VRX, +6.84% shot up 6.8% after announcing a couple of deals. Late Monday, the pharmaceutical group said it would sell its Dendreon cancer unit to Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group Inc. for $818.8 million in cash.
Also Monday, Valeant said it has agreed to sell three skin care brands to French cosmetics giant L’Oréal SA OR, +0.20% for $1.3 billion.
General Motors Co. GM, +3.72% shares closed up 3.7% after the car maker forecast a 2017 outlook above Wall Street expectations.
Ascena Retail Group Inc. ASNA, -9.98% shares fell 10% after the company warned that it will report a wider-than-expected loss after disappointing holiday sales led to increased promotions.
Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL, -0.14% GOOG, -0.23% Google is said to be in talks to sell its satellite business Terra Bella to startup rival Planet Labs Inc.