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Stocks End Down Amid Stimulus Hurdles, Ahead of Tech Earnings

Stocks finish lower after a number of solid earnings reports but gains are held back by the possibility that a coronavirus relief package could be delayed.

Stocks finished modestly lower Tuesday following a number of solid earnings reports but gains were held back by the possibility that a U.S. coronavirus relief package could be delayed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished lower by 23 points, or 0.07%, to 30,937, the S&P 500 eased 0.15% and the Nasdaq edged down 0.07% ahead of earnings reports from some of the biggest tech companies.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq recorded intraday record highs.

General Electric  (GE) - Get General Electric Company Report posted weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings but forecast solid industrial free cash flow growth for the coming year. The stock finished up 2.6%.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that an aid package was unlikely before mid-March. That is when federal unemployment benefits authorized by last $900 billion package will expire. 

Moves by Democratic lawmakers to bring impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump also could command weeks of the Senate's time.

President Joe Biden said he was open to negotiations on his proposed $1.9 trillion plan to send $1,400 to most Americans and deliver other support for the economy, including funds for vaccine distribution.

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A bipartisan group of senators already has voiced opposition to the size of Biden's plan.

The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, has killed more than 423,000 in the U.S. and concern about the bumpy rollout of vaccines in the country has been growing. 

Biden said he expected vaccines to be available to anyone in the U.S. by spring, but to meet that projection vaccine makers will have to sharply increase production.

Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and said it soon would provide an update on its vaccine development progress.

"We continue to progress our covid-19 vaccine candidate and look forward to sharing details from our Phase 3 study soon. Johnson & Johnson was built for times like these, and I am extremely confident in our ability to deliver lasting value and continued innovation in 2021 and for years to come," Chief Executive Alex Gorsky said in a statement.

Reports from Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report, Advanced Micro Devices  (AMD) - Get Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Report and Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report are expected after the closing bell Tuesday.

Microsoft, Advanced Micro Devices and Starbucks are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.

The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting Tuesday. While it's expected not to make any moves on interest rates, it could at least reiterate its commitments to keep rates near zero and make billions in monthly bond purchases until at least the end of the year.