Stock Market Today: 3 Things to Know Ahead of the Bell

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The stock market today should get off to a slow start. According to stock index futures as of 8 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) will rise by a modest 20 points at the opening bell.

Investors will be watching closely as the Federal Open Market Committee begins its two-day rate-setting meeting. In contrast to last month's gathering, expectations this week are that the Fed will keep its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program in place, delaying any so-called "tapering" for the time being.

With that bigger picture in mind, here are a few individual stock stories to watch for in today's market.

BP (NYSE: BP  ) stock will be on the move after the company beat expectations by reporting a higher-than expected $3.7 billion in adjusted profit. The oil giant also raised its per-share dividend slightly to $0.57. But the real boost to investor sentiment might be coming from BP's aggressive tilt toward returning cash to its shareholders. The company plans to sell $10 billion worth of assets over the next few years and use most of that cash for share buybacks. CEO Bob Dudley said in a Bloomberg interview, "Our shareholders have been very patient with BP and it's time to reward them." BP shares are up 4% in premarket trading.

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) also reported earnings this morning that were ahead of expectations. Adjusted profit came in at $0.58 per share versus the $0.56 that Wall Street had targeted. Revenue fell by 2% to $12.6 billion as sales of its blockbuster Lipitor brand continued to shrink. Still, increased sales of other drugs like Lyrica and Celebrex made up for much of that weakness. Pfizer updated its full-year profit guidance and now sees adjusted earnings of $2.17, slightly lower than what analysts were expecting. Shares are flat in premarket trading.

Finally, Goodyear Tire & Rubber (NASDAQ: GT  ) will be in focus after the company announced earnings results this morning. Quarterly profit was $0.62 a share, a third-quarter record for Goodyear but slightly below the $0.67 that analysts were expecting. The company's sales results were hit with a $178 million dip in chemical sales, which overcame Goodyear's improvement in tire sales to push revenue down 6% to $5 billion. Goodyear affirmed most of its forecast for the full year but said consumer sales outside the U.S. should come in between flat and down by as much as 5%. Goodyear's stock is down 4.2% in premarket trading.

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