April 27, 2018 / 12:15 PM / 24 days ago

Wall Street flat as earnings offset inflation jitters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street closed nearly flat on Friday as inflation worries and struggling technology and energy stocks were offset by an advance in the consumer discretionary sector led by Amazon.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq eked out small gains while the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged into negative territory by the end of the session.

All three major U.S. indexes were down for the week at the end of a choppy session, ending two-week winning streaks.

“There’s a ton of cross-currents going on in the market right now and consequently you get trading days like this where the market can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to do,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

Growth in the U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter as consumer spending grew at its weakest pace in nearly five years, according to the Commerce Department. But a jump in wages and lower tax rates suggested the setback could be temporary.

The U.S. Treasuries yield curve flattened as the growth data renewed bets that the Federal Reserve would continue hiking benchmark U.S. interest rates to keep inflation in check.

Wages and salaries increased at their fastest pace in 11 years, according to a report from the Labor Department, adding to inflation jitters.

As companies warn of higher costs eroding margins, markets have fluctuated as investors focus on guidance in the face of the strongest quarterly profit growth in seven years.

“You’ve got investors grappling with a new environment of volatility and how to handle that,” said Carlson. “That means a market like we have now, kind of manic-depressive, passive-aggressive.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11.15 points, or 0.05 percent, to 24,311.19, the S&P 500 gained 2.97 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,669.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.12 points, or 0.02 percent, to 7,119.80.

More than half of the S&P 500 companies have reported first-quarter earnings already, 79.4 percent of which have beat consensus estimates. Analysts now expect first-quarter earnings growth of 24.6 percent, more than double expectations at the beginning of the year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Amazon.com led the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, helping them close in positive territory as the online retailer’s shares rose 3.6 percent on the heels of a blockbuster earnings report. Brokerage firms have begun to value the company in excess of $1 trillion.

Microsoft was up 1.7 percent as the technology bellwether beat first-quarter expectations and grew its cloud computing services.

Following a profit miss, Exxon Mobil weighed on the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average, falling 3.8 percent.

Sprint jumped 8.3 percent following a Reuters report that the wireless carrier and rival T-Mobile were finalizing terms of a merger.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the defensive telecom and real estate sectors posting the biggest percentage gains, at 1.75 percent and 1.32 percent respectively.

The Exxon drop pulled the energy index down 1.2 percent, the biggest percentage loser.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.42-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.07-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 17 new 52-week highs and seven new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 60 new highs and 57 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.13 billion shares, compared to the 6.62 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish

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