Stocks Jumbled Ahead of Company Earnings

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Mark Newton, chief technical analyst at Greywolf, said that while investors are looking more at earnings right now, the ramp-up of the debt ceiling debate that is just a few weeks away is going to have a big impact on sentiment and how people view the market.

"In my opinion it's all about sentiment and when it gets too frothy at one end and everybody's at one side of the boat, typically we reverse," said Newton. "And so right now between earnings and the debt ceiling debate those are two things that should serve as a driver for sentiment at least in the short-run."

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota both gave dovish remarks during their talks Tuesday morning. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser was also scheduled to speak.

Rosengren showed continued support for monetary accommodation in fulfilling the Fed's dual mandate on inflation and employment, while Kocherlakota said that the central bank should provide more monetary accommodation.

The Census Bureau said Tuesday that retail sales rose 0.5% in December after increasing by an upwardly revised 0.4% in November. Economists were expecting a rise of 0.2% in December.

Excluding the auto component, retail sales increased 0.3%, after falling by a downwardly revised 0.1%. Economists were expecting an uptick of 0.2%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that producer prices fell 0.2% in December after being down 0.8% in November. The core PPI, which excludes food and energy, ticked up 0.1% in December, the same as November. The average estimate was for a 0.1% decline in the headline number and a rise of 0.1% for the core read.

The general business conditions index from the New York Federal Reserve's Empire State Manufacturing Survey was little changed at negative 7.8 for January, compared with December's negative 8.10. A flat read was expected.

The Census Bureau also said that total business inventories increased 0.3% in November, as expected, after rising by a downwardly revised 0.3% in October.

Gold for February delivery surged $14.50 to settle at $1,683.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while February crude oil futures fell 86 cents to close at $93.28 a barrel.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 6/32 to dilute the yield to 1.831%. The dollar was up 0.29%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

Dell(DELL) , the No. 3 PC maker but once the world's largest, is in buyout talks with private-equity firms , according to Bloomberg, which cited two people with knowledge of the matter.

Shares added 7.2%.

Homebuilder Lennar(LEN) posted fourth-quarter earnings of 56 cents a share on revenue of $1.35 billion, exceeding the average analyst estimate of 44 cents a share on revenue of $1.31 billion as the housing industry continues to recover.