Wall St. flat as earnings fail to excite investors

Wall Street Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in lower Manhattan in, New York, U.S., April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Abhiram Nandakumar

(Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes were flat on Friday after poor quarterly reports from technology bellwethers Microsoft and Alphabet outweighed gains from steadying oil prices.

Microsoft was the biggest drag on all three major indexes.

Crude rose about 1 percent on signs of strong gasoline consumption in the United States. [O/R]

With recent economic data indicating a sluggish pace of economic growth globally and crude prices hovering near five-month highs, earnings have become a swing factor for stocks.

The S&P 500 has staged a sharp recovery from a steep selloff earlier this year and is inching toward its all-time high, helped by a recent rebound in oil, a cautious Federal Reserve and companies beating tempered expectations.

The index is up half a percent for the week, having posted gains on the first three days.

“We’re back to the every other day theory, bouncing around a little, but I don’t see too strong a sentiment either way,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s still a very cautious environment,” Brown said, adding that the negative tone from the quarterly reports were expected.

At 9:42 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.91 points, or 0.07 percent, at 17,994.43, the S&P 500 was down 1.52 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,089.96 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 35.84 points, or 0.72 percent, at 4,910.05.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, but the index was under pressure by a 1.4 percent decline in the technology sector

Alphabet and Microsoft were down 3.7 and 6.5 percent respectively after both missed profit and revenue estimates.

S&P 500 companies are seen posting a 7.2 percent fall in first-quarter profit, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, and shares of companies failing to beat the already lowered expectations are getting hammered.

McDonald’s rose 0.7 percent to $126.63 after the company’s profit beat estimates.

General Electric was off 1.1 percent at $30.63 after it reported lower organic revenue.

Caterpillar shares were down 0.6 percent at $78.16 after its results.

Starbucks slipped 3 percent after missing sales expectations, while Visa was down 2.3 percent after it cut full-year revenue forecast.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,885 to 761. On the Nasdaq, 1,460 issues rose and 740 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed six new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and six lows.

(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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