Stocks Cautious on Eve of Fed Meeting as Apple Reports

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Markets finished little changed on Monday as investors await the latest decisions by the policy-making arm of the Federal Reserve, which is scheduled to begin two days of meetings tomorrow.

The S&P 500  added 0.13% to close at 1,762.11 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.01% to 15,568.93 and the Nasdaq lost 0.08% to 3,940.13.

"It's just kind of a ho-hum day, but that's not a bad thing all the time just given the run we've had recently," Matt McGeary, portfolio manager at Eagle Asset Management, said in a phone interview. "You can't be up 1% every day." McGeary said Eagle Asset, which has $29.8 billion in assets under management, has viewed this quarter as a "reasonably good" earnings season.

Apple  (AAPL) shares tacked on 0.74% to $529.88 ahead of the company's quarter earnings announcement after the closing bell, injecting some strength in the markets following disappointing quarterly reports from U.S. drug maker Merck  (MRK) and on factory output and pending home sales. Merck lost 2.6% to close at $45.35 after missing revenue expectations. Sales fell 4 percent to $11 billion due to a foreign currency exchange hit and patent expirations. Consensus expectations were for $11.12 billion in revenue.

"Markets are overbought after a good run and investors are still nervous about earnings," Raymond James chief investment strategist Jeffrey Saut said in a phone interview. But he noted about 64% of S&P/500 companies had beaten earnings expectations and suggested investors would pay little attention to economic reports in the coming six weeks due to the one-off impact from the partial government shutdown. Saut helps oversee $400 billion in assets.

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