Wall Street flat as investors focus on earnings

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By Yashaswini Swamynathan

U.S. stocks were little changed late Wednesday morning as investors assessed a flood of quarterly earnings reports.

More than half of the S&P 500 companies have reported results so far, with their combined earnings estimated to have risen 8.2 percent – the most in nine quarters.

Declines in financials .SPSY and energy .SPNY sectors, however, weighed on the market.

U.S. crude fell 0.5 percent after data showed a much bigger-than-expected build in crude stockpiles. The S&P 500 .SPNY 0.85 percent, trading at its lowest since Nov. 29. [O/R]

Financial stocks .SPSY, which have gained the most since Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. Presidential election in November, were down 1.11 percent, putting them on track for their third straight day of decline.

Goldman Sachs’ (GS.N) 1.2 percent fall weighed the most on the Dow.

“It’s a relatively quiet day, with stocks reacting mostly to earnings reports,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab and Co in Austin, Texas.

“The Dow Jones marked an all-time high yesterday and anytime you get an all-time high, you will find some profit takers and that could also be contributing to today’s softness.”

At 11:11 a.m. ET (1611 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 25.81 points, or 0.13 percent, at 20,064.48; the S&P 500 .SPX was up 0.59 points, or 0.02 percent, at 2,293.67 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 4.68 points, or 0.08 percent, at 5,678.90. Healthcare .SPXHC was off 0.22 percent, dragged down by Gilead. The drugmaker’s stock (GILD.O), which also weighed on the S&P and the Nasdaq, was down 9.3 percent after the company projected disappointing sales for its hepatitis C drugs this year.

Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, led by technology .SPLRCT shares.

Walt Disney (DIS.N) was the top stock on the Dow, rising 1.3 percent after Bob Iger said he was open to extending his term as chief executive.

Cognizant (CTSH.O) rose 3.9 percent to $55.86 after the IT services provider named three directors to its board and announced a $3.4 billion share buyback program, bowing to pressure from activist shareholder Elliott Management.

U.S. carrier Alaska Air (ALK.N) rose 4.75 percent to $98.62 after the company reported a 10.7 percent jump in quarterly revenue.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,445 to 1,320. On the Nasdaq, 1,588 issues fell and 1,009 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 11 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 29 new lows.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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