MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Scores Records As Investors Await Slew Of Earnings

By Sue Chang, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Tesla slides on report of large-scale layoff

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U.S. stocks traded slightly higher Monday, with major indexes setting the latest in a string of records, as investors looked ahead to key corporate earnings reports that could set the tone for trading and determine whether the lofty levels of the equity market are justified.

Read:30 years after Black Monday, could stock market crash again? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/30-years-after-black-monday-could-stock-market-crash-again-2017-10-16)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/30-years-after-black-monday-could-stock-market-crash-again-2017-10-16)Also see:Black Monday was baptism by fire for these Wall Street pros (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/black-monday-was-baptism-by-fire-for-these-wall-street-pros-2017-10-16)

Wide-ranging comments from President Donald Trump on tax cuts and health-care reforms following a luncheon meeting with Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not move the market. However, both issues are critical for the market as lower taxes are seen as crucial to supporting a continued rally in stocks.

What are stocks doing?

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 36 points, or 0.2%, to 22,906. The S&P 500 added a point to 2,554. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 7 points, or 0.1%, to 6,613.

All three indexes hit intraday records in early trading, extending their string of recent gains. Last week, both the Dow and the S&P closed out their fifth straight weekly advance, while the Nasdaq has risen for three straight weeks.

What is driving markets?

Investors are waiting for another round of earnings reports this week from prominent companies. Netflix Inc. (NFLX) reports after the close, with (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/morgan-stanley-to-focus-on-roe-in-q3-earnings-2017-10-16)Morgan Stanley (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/morgan-stanley-to-focus-on-roe-in-q3-earnings-2017-10-16) (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/morgan-stanley-to-focus-on-roe-in-q3-earnings-2017-10-16)(MS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/goldman-profit-and-revenue-expected-to-decline-2017-10-16).(GS) on the docket Tuesday.

Read:Netflix earnings: Why higher subscription prices lead to more shows like 'Stranger Things' (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-earnings-prices-and-costs-continue-to-rise-as-streaming-giant-strives-for-more-2017-10-10)

Political jitters are also on traders' minds, including Trump's threat to end the Iran nuclear deal (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-we-cannot-and-will-not-certify-iran-nuclear-deal-2017-10-13) and uncertainty over Catalonia's push (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/catalonia-must-drop-independence-call-by-thursday-spains-deputy-pm-2017-10-16) for independence in Spain.

The dollar got a boost from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Sunday, after she reiterated plans to push ahead with interest rate rises (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gradual-rate-hikes-should-help-sustain-economic-growth-yellen-says-2017-10-15) despite weak inflation levels.

What's on the calendar for Monday?

The New York Fed reported that its Empire State manufacturing index climbed to a three-year high (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/empire-state-index-jumps-to-three-year-high-in-october-2017-10-16) of 30.2 in October from 24.4 in September, topping the Econoday-compiled consensus of 20.

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari is scheduled to participate in a moderated discussion in Minneapolis at 9 p.m. Eastern.

See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

What are strategists saying?

"The S&P 500 has made it through the first half of the typical volatile month of October quite well. While history told us to expect a more excitable tape, the trend has persisted. In fact, judging by the VIX's continued slide, things have even gotten even calmer," Frank Cappelleri, technical strategist at Instinet LLC, said in a report.

"As noted as October began, if the SPX can make it through next Monday, Oct. 23, without a big drop, it could break the record for consecutive days without a peak to trough 3% decline. The 1995--1996 period of 241 remains in first place for now," he said.

Read:S&P 500 is poised to make uncanny stock-market history this week--for doing almost nothing (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sp-500-is-poised-to-make-uncanny-stock-market-historyfor-doing-almost-nothing-2017-10-12)

David Kostin, chief U.S. strategist at Goldman Sachs, said if the government is able to cut the top corporate tax rate from 35% to between 20% to 25%, it could lift S&P 500 return on equity--a measure of a company's profitability--by roughly 50 to 100 basis points. But without tax reforms, an expansion in the S&P 500's valuation will be limited.

Which stocks are in focus?

The Food and Drug Administration late Friday gave marketing clearance to TransEnterix Inc.(TRXC) robotic surgery device, propelling its shares 77% higher.

Exelixis Inc.(EXEL) jumped 17% after the biotech company said it has won FDA priority review status (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/exelix-shares-surge-19-premarket-after-fda-grants-priority-review-to-kidney-cancer-drug-2017-10-16) for its supplemental New Drug Application for a treatment for advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

Tesla Inc.(TSLA) fell 1.4% following a report that the electric-car company fired hundreds of workers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tesla-fires-hundreds-of-workers-reports-2017-10-14).

Netflix(NFLX) shares edged up 0.5% ahead of the company's earnings release. The stock has been trading near record levels, and is up more than 60% thus far this year.

Read:Netflix earnings: Why higher subscription prices lead to more shows like 'Stranger Things' (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-earnings-prices-and-costs-continue-to-rise-as-streaming-giant-strives-for-more-2017-10-10)

What are other markets doing?

Asian stock markets closed mostly higher (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nikkei-continues-to-surge-leading-asian-market-gains-2017-10-15), boosted by rising metals prices.

In Europe, Spanish stocks (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/spanish-stocks-dragged-down-by-catalonia-uncertainty-sapping-european-benchmark-2017-10-16) weighed on the region's markets after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont failed to clarify whether (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/catalan-leader-dodges-clear-declaration-of-independence-2017-10-16) the region's leaders have formally declared independence. The national government has now given Puigdemont a new deadline of Thursday morning to drop its push for independence.

Oil prices rallied on concerns (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-jumps-to-near-3-week-high-as-middle-east-tensions-escalate-2017-10-16) over Trump's comments about the Iran deal and increased tensions in Kurdistan (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/iraqi-forces-move-against-kurdish-fighters-in-wake-of-independence-vote-2017-10-15) while gold settled lower.

--Sara Sjolin contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 16, 2017 14:40 ET (18:40 GMT)