Two days into a relatively slow news week, markets continue to push higher, but a rally to start the day lost quite a bit of steam, leaving equities with mostly modest gains. Earnings continue to trickle in with Under Armour posting a disappointing loss and Hasbro posting a strong beat. Shares of Sprint skyrocketed after a U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of the company’s merger with T-Mobile U.S. Inc. A reading from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index showed optimism increased more than expected.Markets were focused on today’s start of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s two-day monetary policy testimony on Capitol Hill, in which the Chairman reiterated the central bank’s stance that rates are unlikely to change in the near future, but that the Fed is monitoring developments surrounding the coronavirus. Treasuries, the U.S. dollar, and gold were lower on the day. Oil prices rose and international equities moved higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at 29,276, the S&P 500 rose 5 points (0.2%) to 3,358 and the NASDAQ added 11 points (0.1%) to 9,639. 835 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 2.4 billion shares changed hands on the NASDAQ. WTI oil was up $0.37 to $49.94 per barrel and wholesale gasoline was down $0.01 to $1.51 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price shed $9.40 to $1,570.10 per ounce. The Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was down 0.1% to 98.75.

Small business optimism improves, Fed Chief reiterates stance in Congressional testimony:

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index for January improved to 104.3, from December’s 102.7 level, and compared to the Bloomberg expectation of an increase to 103.5. The NFIB said the index started the New Year in the top 10% of all readings in the 46-year history of the survey, with six of the ten components improving, two declining, and two that were unchanged, as the Uncertainty Index edged up slightly. It added that owners expecting better business conditions dipped slightly, but sales expectations and earnings trends improved significantly, and as was reported last week, actual job creation surged in January.

The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a measure of unmet demand for labor, fell to 6.4 million jobs available to be filled in December, from November’s 6.8 million figure and below forecasts calling for 6.9 million. The report showed hires and separations were little changed for the final month of 2018.

Also, the markets were focused on today’s start of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s two-day monetary policy testimony on Capitol Hill, which comes after the Central Bank left its stance unchanged and delivered a dovish tone late last month.

Treasuries were lower, with the yield on the 2-year note rising 2 basis points (bps) to 1.42%, the yield on the 10-year note gaining 2 bps to 1.59%, and the 30-year bond rate also adding 2 bps to 2.06%.

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