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US: Stocks drift mostly higher


[NEW YORK] US stocks drifted mostly higher on Thursday as oil prices edged lower and financials provided a lift after earnings from Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18.15 (0.10 per cent to 17,926.43.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.36 (0.02 per cent) at 2,082.78, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.53 (0.03 per cent) to 4,945.89.

Stocks spent most of the day modestly above their flat lines in quiet trade.

Market voices on:

"Traders may have been exercising some caution ahead of tonight's release of China's Q1 GDP, while in domestic economic news, consumer inflation was cooler than expected and jobless claims unexpectedly dropped," Charles Schwab & Co said in a client note.

Earnings from financials came in better than feared, with Bank of America and Wells Fargo reporting lower profits, much the same as JPMorgan Chase had on Wednesday.

JPMorgan led the blue-chip Dow higher, advancing 1.3 per cent.

Bank of America gained 2.6 per cent after reporting first-quarter net income dropped 18.1 per cent year-over-year at US$2.2 billion and earnings per share met expectations.

Wells Fargo lost 0.5 per cent after first-quarter profit fell 5.9 per cent to US$5.5 billion and the bank cited the drag from low interest rates.

Both banks boosted their reserves to cover bad energy loans.

Citigroup jumped 1.7 per cent before its pre-market earnings report Friday.

Delta Air Lines climbed 0.9 per cent after reporting that first-quarter net income rose 26.8 per cent to US$946 million. Fuel costs were down US$1.5 billion compared with the year-ago period.

The results also lifted American Airlines and United Continental by 3.1 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively.

Seagate Technology, which sells hard drives and other data-storage products, dived 20.1 per cent as it lowered its sales and profit-margin forecasts, due in part to weaker demand from China.

In the oil sector, Baker Hughes and Halliburton rose a respective 4.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent on reports that Carlyle is eyeing buying some of their assets, a move that could help ease antitrust concerns about their planned merger.