Wall St. flat amid mixed earnings reports

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A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., October 19, 2016.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday morning as weak earnings reports from index heavyweights Verizon and Travelers were offset by AmEx’s strong showing.

Verizon (VZ.N) fell 2.8 percent, weighing the most on the S&P, after the wireless carrier reported a drop in quarterly revenue. Rival AT&T (T.N) fell 2 percent.

The S&P 500 telecom services sector .SPLRCL tumbled 2.2 percent, the biggest loser among the 11 major S&P 500 indexes.

Travelers (TRV.N) was the top drag on the Dow, falling 4.2 percent after the insurer posted a 22.8 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Helping the Dow and the S&P cut losses was American Express’s (AXP.N) 6.6 percent jump following its strong results and forecast.

EBay (EBAY.O) tumbled 9.1 percent after its disappointing forecast for the current quarter.

“Today is going to be earnings driven, but with no real clear direction in the market,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The mostly dour reports could dent the chances of S&P 500 companies having snapped a four-quarter earnings recession in the third quarter.

About 80 percent of the 70 S&P 500 companies that had reported results until Wednesday beat profit estimates. Earnings are expected to have risen 0.5 percent in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

But, Thursdays round of earnings reports could lower the estimated increase. Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Schlumberger (SLB.N) are scheduled to report after markets close.

At 9:51 a.m. ET (1351 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 3.63 points, or 0.02 percent, at 18,198.99.

The S&P 500 .SPX was down 2.15 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,142.14 and the Nasdaq Composite.IXIC was down 7.50 points, or 0.14 percent, at 5,238.91.

Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 indexes were lower. The energy’s .SPNY 0.53 percent drop was the second biggest.

Oil prices fell 2 percent as investors booked profits a day after crude rose to a 15-month high on an unseasonal draw in stockpiles. [O/R]

Among the few companies with encouraging results was Mattel (MAT.O), which rose 5.4 percent after the toymaker reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

A report from the Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefit rose more-than-expected last week, but remained below a level that is associated with a strong labor market.

Stock futures were higher earlier in the day after more people perceived Democrat Hillary Clinton to have won the third and final U.S. presidential debate than her Republican rival Donald Trump, according to a poll.

Clinton, favored by the markets as her policies are clearer, was also perceived to have also won the previous debates, with the markets rising each time.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,456 to 1,142. On the Nasdaq, 1,181 issues fell and 1,007 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed three new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 25 new highs and 22 new lows.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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