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US: Wall Street opens little changed; French election eyed

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Wall Street opened little changed on Friday as earnings rolled in, while investors braced for the first round of the closely contested French presidential election.

[NEW YORK] Wall Street opened little changed on Friday as earnings rolled in, while investors braced for the first round of the closely contested French presidential election.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron is leading most opinion polls for the election's first round on Sunday and is expected to contest a second-round run-off with Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-European Union and anti-immigrant National Front.

"Although Macron has been labelled as favorite to become the next French President, an unexpected Marine Le Pen victory could deal a symbolic blow to the unity of the European Union and ultimately create a tidal wave of risk aversion," FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga said in a note.

After a two-week losing streak, major indexes may cling on to their gains this week following Thursday's rally, which was driven partly by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's comments that an overhaul of the tax code would be unveiled very soon.

Market voices on:

"The comments about the tax reform and generally good quarterly earnings are giving equities a bit of a boost," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St Petersburg, Florida.

Of the 82 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Thursday afternoon, about 75 per cent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 71 per cent average for the past four quarters.

Overall, profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 11.1 per cent in the quarter, the best since 2011.

At 9.38am ET (1338 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 7.04 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 20,585.75 and the S&P 500 was down 1.11 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 2,354.73.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 4.74 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 5,912.03.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the telecommunications index's 0.53 per cent fall leading the decliners.

On the economic front, data is expected to show March existing home sales expanded slightly to 5.6 million from 5.48 million in February. The data is expected at 10am ET (1400 GMT).

Oil prices edged lower, on course for the biggest weekly drop in a month, over doubts that an Opec-led production cut will restore balance to an oversupplied market.

Shares of Dow component Visa were up 1.4 per cent at US$92.40 after the payments network operator's quarterly results beat expectations.

General Electric was little changed at US$30.30 after the company's revenue beat Wall Street expectations.

Schlumberger was down 3.2 per cent at US$74.12 after the oilfield services provider said costs would continue to weigh on margins over the next two quarters.

Mattel fell 5.7 per cent to US$23.76 after the toymaker reported a far bigger-than-expected quarterly loss and drop in sales.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,455 to 1,081. On the Nasdaq, 1,375 issues fell and 843 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed nine new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 23 new highs and six new lows.



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