The S&P 500 stalled near its flatline on Monday in a quieter day of trading ahead of a Federal Reserve-focused week.
The S&P 500 was up just 0.04%, caught in the middle of slight losses for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and minor gains for the Nasdaq. The Dow fell 0.10%, while the Nasdaq rose 0.24%.
"Today's not going to be the most important day of the week," Fawad Razaqzada, technical analysts at Forex.com, wrote in a note. "It will be Wednesday and Thursday when most of this week's action will likely take place, with several central bank meetings and top tier economic data to look forward to. Specifically, it will be the Federal Reserve rate decision on Wednesday which may cause the most volatility in the financial markets."
The Fed's policy-setting group, the Federal Open Market Committee, is set to convene for their two-day meeting on Tuesday with an announcement set for Wednesday afternoon. The Fed will also release updated forecasts, including the '"dot plot" matrix that visualizes each Fed member's expectations for the pace of future hikes.
The U.S jobs report for February, released on Friday, made the likelihood of an interest rate hike in March all but a certainty. Solid job gains support the Fed's recent hawkish rhetoric and insistence that the U.S. economic recovery warrants more than one rate hike this year. A March interest rate hike held a 91% chance as of Friday, according to CME Group.
What's more important is how many rate hikes the Fed signals for the rest of the year. Wall Street has slowly grown accustomed to the likelihood of three rates hikes this year. A hint of any more than that could cause market waves.
Intel (INTC - Get Report) was the biggest laggard on the Dow after agreeing to buy Israeli technology company Mobileye (MBLY) for $15.3 billion. Under the terms of the deal, Intel will pay $63.54 for each Mobileye share, a 34% premium to Mobileye's closing price Friday of $47.27. Intel expects the deal to close within the next nine months. Mobileye shares rocketed 28% higher, while Intel fell 2%.
Markets have struggled for direction in recent days, waiting for last Friday's jobs report and then for the Fed's decision later this week. Still, the Dow remains less than 200 points from its all-time record close.
"The pullback has been contained and the bulls believe that it is nothing more than healthy consolidation after the massive run since the election last November," said James "Rev Shark" Deporre in his latest column for RealMoney, our premium site for investors. "The bears see this is as the long-awaited 'beginning of the end.' They have been anticipating the end of the 'Trump Trade,' and with the Fed ready to begin a series of rate hikes, there is an obvious catalyst for a market turn."
Herbalife (HLF - Get Report) led non-cyclical consumer stocks higher on Monday, rising 2.7% after billionaire investor Carl Icahn disclosed that he had purchased $19.1 million of shares in the nutrition and health company. Icahn now holds a stake of 22.9 million shares, or roughly 24.6% of shares outstanding. Icahn is Herbalife's largest shareholder. Icahn also raised his stake in Navistar (NAV - Get Report) . He now holds a 17.02% stake in the company as of March 10, up from 16.61% at the end of February.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will likely receive enough votes to trigger Article 50 on Monday. May is set to hold a vote Monday evening which, if it passes, would allow her to begin the process of exiting the U.K. from the European Union.
Crude oil prices fell on Monday for its sixth straight session. Prices have been under pressure since a weekly reading on U.S. stockpiles showed supplies hit record levels. Crude ended last week at its lowest level since November, the day the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced production cuts.
"The global petroleum market may still be in doubt over the current state of the physical balance and is certainly still concerned regarding the record-setting uptrend in U.S. crude stocks, but the futures market seems to have come back into a closer balance in Monday trade," said Tim Evans, energy futures specialist at Citi. "The urgent selling pressure of last week may be drying up at the lower price levels and bargain hunting beginning to emerge, although it is quite early to declare that anything like a confident floor has been established."
West Texas Intermediate crude was down 0.2% at $48.40 a barrel on Monday.
Viacom (VIAB - Get Report) dropped 1.3% on Monday after the company appointed Kern Schireson as chief data officer, a new position within the company. Schireson, who has been at the company since 2014, will be in charge of Viacom's data programs, including Viacom Vantage, a data-driven advertising platform.
SeaDrill (SDRL - Get Report) added more than 8% on Monday after settling a dispute with Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries over its West Mira arbitration case. SeaDrill will receive $170 million in cash this month as part of the settlement. Arbitration began late 2016 after the cancellation of a construction contract.
Boeing (BA - Get Report) rose slightly after being downgraded to equal weight from overweight at Morgan Stanley. Analysts said the move was a valuation call based on its recent strength over the past few months.
Wall Street Goes to Washington: In the first of a series of conversations with the President's economic advisors, acclaimed author and columnist Michael Wolff will sit down with Anthony Scaramucci, co-founder of private equity firm Skybridge Capital, to discuss the Trump administration, his thoughts on policies and regulations under debate and his outlook for the next four years. Join us for this cocktail party on Monday, March 27 at The Metropolitan Club in New York. The event is free, but seating is limited and reservations are required. For more information or to RSVP, email email@example.com.