Stocks fairly static on Wall Street after two days of brisk trading
US stocks hardly budged on Thursday and finished with a mix of small gains and losses. Banks and airlines rose on strong first-quarter reports, while consumer products companies struggled.
The market wavered throughout the day. Stocks are coming off two big gains in a row and are trading at their highest levels of the year.
"People are getting a bit more confident of what's going on in the market," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 18.15 points, or 0.1%, to 17,926.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 index ticked up 0.36 points to 2,082.78. The Nasdaq composite lost 1.53 points to 4,945.89.
The results from banks have not been great so far, but investors expected even worse because of shaky loans to energy companies and low interest rates that have made lending less profitable. Kinahan said banks are benefiting from lower expenses and more people are seeking mortgage loans.
"If businesses are starting to expand a little bit, if the consumer is out there trying to buy housing, (lending) is a steady source of income for these institutions," he said. Investors feared "this was going to be an absolutely disastrous earnings season," he said.
Bank of America picked up 35 cents, or 2.5%, to 14.14 US dollars, as its results met investor expectations. First Republic Bank jumped 2.38 US dollars, or 3.5%, to 69.88 US dollars after the San Francisco bank reported a bigger-than-expected profit. Fifth Third Bank, another regional bank, gained 32 cents, or 1.8%, to 17.73 US dollars.
Wells Fargo's profit fell as it set aside more money to cover its struggling portfolio of oil and gas loans, one of the chief worries investors have about the financial industry. The stock slipped 24 cents to 48.79 US dollars. Bank stocks jumped Wednesday after JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank, reported results that beat expectations.
Data storage company Seagate Technology said its third-quarter profit margins and revenue will be lower than expected. The company said it's seeing lower demand for some kinds of hard disk drives. Its stock plunged 6.82 US dollars, or 20.1%, to 27.11 US dollars, by far the largest loss in the S&P 500. Competitor Western Digital fell 2.98 US dollars, or 6.7%, to 41.82 US dollars and NetApp lost 1.06 US dollars, or 4%, to 25.64 US dollars.
Delta Air Lines' first-quarter profit jumped 27%, helped by low fuel costs. Delta's stock gained 45 cents to 48.49 US dollars, but its competitors had even bigger gains. American Airlines rose 1.23 US dollars, or 3.1%, to 41.17 US dollars and United added 1.15 US dollars, or 2.1%, to 56.73 US dollars. JetBlue and Southwest also rose.
Pier 1 Imports fell after the home decor company gave a shaky outlook for the first half of its fiscal year. Pier 1 said it expects pressure on its profit and sales because of marketing expenses, including a return to TV advertising, as well as price markdowns. The stock gave up 43 cents, or 5.9%, to 6.91 US dollars.
Benchmark US crude oil fell 26 cents to 41.50 US dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 34 cents to 43.84 US dollars a barrel in London.
Gold fell 21.80 US dollars, or 1.7%, to 1,226.50 US dollars an ounce. Silver fell 15 cents to 16.17 US dollars an ounce. Copper was unchanged at 2.17 US dollars a pound.
Claims for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week and reached their lowest level since 1973. They have been at low levels for a year, which indicates the job market is healthy and employers are not letting go of workers. That suggests many companies see the recent slowdown as temporary.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell two cents to 1.51 US dollars a gallon. Heating oil dipped one cent to 1.25 US dollars a gallon. Natural gas fell seven cents, or 3%, to 1.97 US dollars per 1,000 cubic feet.
In Europe, Germany's Dax was up 0.7% while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.5%. The FTSE 100 index in Britain held steady. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 3.2% higher as the yen weakened slightly against the dollar. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8% and the Kospi in South Korea climbed 1.75%.
Bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.79% from 1.77%. The euro fell to 1.1267 from 1.1283 US dollars and the dollar edged up to 109.28 yen from 109.24 yen.