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US: Stocks end mixed as market awaits earnings season

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished mixed on Monday in a cautious start to week that includes major economic data and the start of first-quarter earnings season.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 0.3 per cent at 26,341.02.

The broad-based S&P 500 edged up 0.1 per cent to 2,895.77, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.2 per cent to 7,953.88.

Key economic releases this week include consumer prices for March, while investors are looking ahead to earnings from JPMorgan Chase that will kick off the first-quarter reporting season.

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Expectations for earnings are low, a dynamic that some analysts think could boost stocks if companies outperform. CFRA Research projects companies in the S&P 500 will report a 2.7 per cent fall in operating earnings-per-share.

"We have a low bar for earnings," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist of TD Ameritrade.

"It is widely accepted that earnings will be soft for the first quarter, but investors are betting that the forward-looking statements will be good."

Other key events this week include a Brexit summit of European Union leaders on Wednesday and a policy announcement by the European Central Bank on the same day.

Boeing sank 4.5 per cent as investors weighed the company's announcement late Friday that it was cutting production of its 737 planes due to the global grounding of the 737 MAX, with Citigroup downgrading the company and Morningstar estimating the crisis would shave US$1.11 per share off of 2019 profits.

General Electric tumbled 5.2 per cent following a bearish note from JPMorgan Chase, which downgraded the company, citing poor conditions in key businesses such as power and aviation fundamentals that are "weaker than meets the eye."

But digital security company Symantec jumped 5.4 per cent following an upgrade from Goldman Sachs.

AFP