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Benchmarks ended nearly flat on Monday as investors were hesitant to take any big positions ahead of the all-important non-farm payrolls report. However, the S&P closed at a record high for the third consecutive day. A bunch of companies reported their quarterly results. Meanwhile, existing home sales slipped in September. The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups. Health care suffered maximum losses.  

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
 
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) slipped 0.1% to close the day at 15,392.01. The S&P 500 added 0.01% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,744.64. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.2% to end at 3,920.05. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) edged up 0.9% to settle at 13.16. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 4.9 billion shares, considerably lower than 2013’s average of 6.0 billion shares. Declining stocks outnumbered the advancers. For 50% shares that declined, 47% advanced.
 
Markets will have a lot to chew on in the coming days as earnings season steps into high gear. Additionally, a series of economic reports, delayed due to the partial government shutdown will be released. Recent gains in the markets have been driven by an end to the sixteen-day long partial government shutdown and a successful debt ceiling deal. Robust quarterly results from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) also drove the markets higher on Friday.
 
On the earnings front, McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD) reported third quarter results. The company’s earnings came in marginally above the Street’s estimates but revenue fell short of expectations. McDonald's said the company expects flat global same-store sales for the month of October and also indicated that such weakness would remain in the coming quarter. The company reported a profit of $1.52 billion from a year ago figure of $1.46 billion. Revenue climbed 2.4% to $7.32 billion. Shares declined 0.6% yesterday.
 
Shares of toymaker’s Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) jumped more than 5% after the company announced its quarterly numbers. Hasbro reported better-than-expected quarterly profits, driven by strong foreign demand which overshadowed weakness in the domestic market. The company’s net profits increased to $193.0 million from a year ago figure of $164.9 million.
 
On the home front, the national Association of Realtors reported existing home sales numbers. According to the report, existing home sales fell 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million in September from the revised August figure of 5.39 million. This was below the consensus estimate of 5.32 million. NAR chief economist, Lawrence Yun said: “Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth.”
 
Meanwhile, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the current economic scenario is not clear due to the recent government shutdown. Therefore, it will be very difficult for the Fed to take a decision on tapering the Federal Reserve’s bond buying program in its December meeting.  “October is a tough one. December? I think we need a couple of good labor reports and evidence of increasing growth, GDP growth. It is probably going to take a few months to sort that one out,” he told CNBC in an interview.
 
The technology sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Technology SPDR (XLK) gained 0.6%. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) added 2.5%, 0.1%, 1.9%, 0.2% and 1.1%, respectively.

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