U.S. stocks fluctuated between gains and losses Tuesday as investors worked through the latest round of earnings reports. Pharmaceutical stocks rose after drug giant Merck reported better-than-expected results.
Keeping score: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,096 as of noon Eastern. It was down 120 points earlier. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points to 2,113 and the Nasdaq composite was unchanged at 5,065.
Healthy: Merck rose $2.88, or 5 percent, to $59.96. While the company's profits fell 44 percent from a year ago, the results still handily beat analysts' estimates. Adjusted earnings for the maker of diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet were 85 cents a share versus the 75 cents expected by analysts.
Apple: The iPhone and computer and maker reported a record quarterly profit of $13.6 billion, but Apple's outlook was not as rosy as some analysts had predicted. Apple was unchanged at $132.66 after being down 2 percent earlier. Apple had a record $193.5 billion in cash on its balance sheet and plans on increasing its dividend and share buyback.
On sale: Appliance maker Whirlpool dropped $13.90, or 7 percent, to $183.84. The company had to slash its 2015 annual forecast, due to the rising dollar and low demand for appliances in Brazil, it said.
Fed watch: Much of the focus over the coming two days will be on the Fed's meeting. At the two-day meeting, which ends Wednesday, policymakers are set to discuss when the Fed should start raising interest rates again. The Fed opened the door to rate increases after its March meeting, but some recent weak economic data might complicate that picture.
Gloomy: The Conference Board said Tuesday that U.S. consumer confidence fell in April to the lowest level in four months, knocked down by a slowdown in hiring. The Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 95.2 in April from 101.4 in March. That was the lowest level since 93.1 in December. Consumers' assessment of current economic conditions fell for the third straight month, and their expectations for the future also fell.
Greece: Investors are continuing to watch negotiations between Greece and its creditors. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decided Monday to reorganize his negotiating team with European officials, which appears to have eased concerns that a deal will be made before Greece could default. Tsipras also laid out the hope that a deal will be concluded by May 9, two days ahead of a meeting of European finance ministers.
Euro rising: One of the clearest indicators of the improving Greek backdrop has been the rise of the euro. The euro rose to $1.0978 from $1.0881 the day before. It hasn't traded above $1.10 since mid-March.
Energy: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 8 cents to $57.08 a barrel in New York. Brent crude rose 24 cents to $65.06 a barrel in London.
Bonds: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.96 percent from 1.92 percent late Monday.