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Before the Bell: The stock market will open for trading shortly following a weaker session on Monday and a mixed showing yesterday. Thus far this morning, the equity futures are indicating little definitive direction to the new trading day. The major economic news item today, meanwhile, will be the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book. That major publication is a summary of business conditions across the United States, The central bank will use this economic summation to formulate monetary policy at its next FOMC meeting later this month. 

Regarding yesterday's market, stocks began the session nicely to the upside and stayed in positive territory until near the noon hour on the East Coast. The stock market then took a brief turn into the minus column until early in the afternoon when it once more pressed selectively higher, finally ending the day with modest improvement in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but a steep loss in the NASDAQ. All told, the Dow added 60 points. The S&P 500 was just incrementally higher, but the tech-heavy NASDAQ fell sharply, giving back 130 points.

One area of strength was the small-cap sector, with the Russell 2000 Index urging 37 points. Overall, we would see an uneven performance yesterday ahead of fourth-quarter earnings season, which is about to commence later this week, with releases from some major banking houses. Meanwhile, there was weakness in the shares of technology names and social media companies. This was the second choppy session in a row after the major averages all had closed at record highs on Friday.

All told, most investors expect the stock market to do a little better this year on optimism about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. That said, some are expecting increased volatility in the coming months amid risks coming from high valuations and possible impeachment turmoil. As to a bipartisan approach to a second impeachment effort aimed at the President, some Republicans have said that they would join their Democratic colleagues in voting for the articles of impeachment today. In contrast, no GOP House member did so at the last impeachment.  

Looking ahead, investors remained resilient in the face of lingering concerns surrounding the heightened political tensions and the rising threats of violence ahead of the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the 46th President of the United States. In addition, there is some concern over rising Treasury note yields and the surge in COVID-19 cases. The upbeat sentiment centered on an expected economic recovery in the second half of 2021, which, in turn, assumes a successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. Thus far, that process has been frustratingly slow. – Harvey S. Katz, CFA

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.