U.S. stocks mixed, earnings in focus; Dow Jones down 0.16%

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Investing.com - U.S. stocks opened mixed on Tuesday, as markets were jittery ahead of the fourth quarter earnings season, while U.S. fiscal concerns continued to linger.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 0.16%, the S&P 500 index fell 0.13%, while the Nasdaq Composite index added 0.12%.

Investors remained focused after tepid U.S. nonfarm payrolls data last week dampened speculation that the Federal Reserve may end its easing program sooner than had been expected after the minutes from the Fed's December meeting showed that some policymakers considered ending the bank's quantitative easing program before the end of the year.

Markets were also jittery amid concerns about continuing political wrangling in Washington over further budget cuts and raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

Alcoa was up 0.66% as the aluminum producer was set to kick off earnings season later in the day.

Also among earnings, Monsanto saw shares surge 3.60% after the agricultural biotech firm boosted its earnings outlook for fiscal 2013 and handed in better-than-expected quarterly results.

In the tech sector, Apple jumped 1.10%, even as Samsung Electronics said it likely earned a quarterly profit of USD8.3 billion as it sold close to 500 handsets a minute and as demand picked up for the flat screens it makes for mobile devices, including those for rival the iPhone maker's products.

On the downside, Sears Holdings tumbled 2.87% after saying late Monday that Chief Executive Louis D'Ambrosio will step down for family health reasons after the U.S. company reported a 1.8% decline in quarter-to-date sales at stores open at least a year.

Food company Yum Brands added to losses, with shares plummeting 4.24% after the owner of the Taco Bell and KFC fast-food chains said that quarterly same-store revenue in China fell 6%, compared with its previous forecast of a 4% decline.

Meanwhile, financial stocks trended broadly lower. Shares in JP Morgan slipped 0.11% and Citigroup dropped 0.47%, while Bank of America and Goldman Sachs declined 0.58% and 0.80% respectively.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were mixed to higher. The EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.30%, France's CAC 40 climbed 0.52%, Germany's DAX edged down 0.15%, while Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.11%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled 0.94% lower, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped 0.86%.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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