Stocks ended narrowly mixed Wednesday as financial and energy stocks rose, while industrial, material and technology stocks fell.
NEW YORK (AP) — Investors waiting for earnings reports to start rolling in held to modest moves after a two-day spike in stocks.
Stocks ended narrowly mixed Wednesday as financial and energy stocks rose, while industrial, material and technology stocks fell. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 6 points, while broader indexes rose.
With little economic news to shape sentiment, investors are looking to earnings reports from the July-September quarter for clues about the economy.
Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. was the first of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones industrial average to report results after the end of trading. The company’s revenue and earnings topped expectations.
Investors spent the trading day not wanting to place big bets after the Dow had posted its best two-day gain since mid-July.
“Investors are holding tight here,” said Eric Ross, director of research at Canaccord Adams. “There are people on both sides of the fence. A lot of people think this market is going to keep running and running and then others that are very nervous.”
With the benchmark Standard & Poor’s index up 56.3 percent since hitting a 12-year low in March, investors have been questioning whether a continued advance is justified given recent evidence that the economy’s recovery will be rocky.
Even with big gains on Monday and Tuesday, the S&P 500 index has fallen in the past two weeks as encouraging trends in labor and manufacturing faltered. How the earnings reports fare in coming weeks will largely determine the direction of the market through the end of the year, Ross said.
Many companies beat modest earnings expectations in the second quarter by cutting costs, helping to fuel the market’s rally through the summer. Now investors are hoping to see stronger sales driving earnings, which would signal a rebound in consumer spending. Many analysts are skeptical about how strong that spending will be.
“The consumer is just really damaged,” said Len Blum, a managing partner at Westwood Capital LLC. “Every time we see a blip, it’s not sustainable.”
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 5.67, or 0.1 percent, to 9,725.58. The S&P 500 index rose 2.86, or 0.3 percent, to 1,057.58, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 6.76, or 0.3 percent, to 2,110.33.
Among the earnings reports trickling in Wednesday, Costco Wholesale Corp. said profits fell 6 percent, partly due to a stronger dollar and increased employee benefit costs, but results still beat analysts’ expectations. Shares rose $1.07 to $59.
Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed maker, said its loss widened to $233 million as revenue fell. Adjusted earnings narrowly beat estimates. Shares fell $1.03 to $74.33.
Alcoa’s shares rose 31 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $14.20 before the company reported results and extended the advance in after-hours electronic trading.
In other trading, shares of Verisk Analytics Inc. shot up 23.7 percent in their market debut, rising $5.22 to $27.22. The insurance data specialist raised $1.9 billion in one of the year’s largest initial public offerings.
Gold continued to edge higher after hitting a new high of $1,049 an ounce overnight. Prices rose $3 to $1,042.
Oil fell $1.31 to settle at $69.57 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the government reported that crude inventories fell last week. Gasoline supplies grew.
A falling dollar and rising commodity prices helped push stocks higher on Tuesday, adding to the previous day’s gains that were spurred by signs of growth in the service industry. The Dow rose 244 points over two days, its best back-to-back advance since July. The resurgence came after two straight weekly declines, also for the first time since July.
Investors have been keeping a close eye on the dollar, which has fallen steadily this year amid rock-bottom interest rates and massive government spending. A weak dollar is good for corporate profits of companies with a strong global footprint, as it encourages overseas companies to buy U.S. goods and services. Over the long term, however, a weak dollar could trigger inflation.
The dollar rebounded slightly Wednesday against the euro and the British pound after tumbling the day before on a surprise interest rate increase in Australia. Higher interest rates can boost a country’s currency.
Bond prices rose after an auction of 10-year notes attracted strong demand. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.18 percent from 3.26 percent late Tuesday.
Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced those that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.1 billion shares compared with 1.2 billion Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 1.64, or 0.3 percent, to 600.34.
Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent, Germany’s DAX index slipped 0.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 lost 0.4 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.1 percent.