S&P sneaks into positive territory as earnings loom

Stocks were little changed late in the session on Wall Street, with the earnings season soon to kick off.

With under an hour to the close the S&P 500 index had managed to edge its way out of the red, gaining 0.05% to stand at 1838.4, while the Dow Jones lagged behind slightly, down 0.03% at 16,458.

Shares in Alcoa dropped 1.8%, after the SEC announced it had charged the aluminium producer with bribing officials in Bahrain. Alcoa unofficially kicks off the US earnings season when it reports quarterly figures after the market closes tonight.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George spoke in Wisconsin today and, true to form, voiced concerns about the Fed’s on-going programme of quantitative easing. Ms George voted against maintaining stimulus throughout 2013 and habitually spoke out publically against the need for easing.

I would expect more interesting comment from James Bullard , the head of the St Louis Fed, who speaks in Indianapolis tomorrow. Mr Bullard is a centrist, whose view is therefore likely to offer a more representative reflection of current thinking at the Fed.

The highly important employment situation report for December is released tomorrow, which is perhaps the economic indicator that singularly carries the most weight with the FOMC, and will be closely watched by investors. A Reuters poll points to a gain of 196,000 in non-farm payrolls.

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