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US: Stocks end near flat to begin earnings-heavy week

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished little changed on Monday at the start of a heavy earnings week, with most petroleum-linked shares rising with oil prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.2 per cent to 26,511.05.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.1 per cent at 2,907.97, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index won 0.2 per cent to 8,015.26.

Analysts see the coming four days as the most critical period for first-quarter earnings. The list of companies reporting includes Amazon, Boeing, Facebook, Procter & Gamble and Exxon Mobil.

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The S&P 500 is projected to see a 3.9 per cent decline in first-quarter earnings per share, according to FactSet. If that happens, it would be the first year-over-year decline since the second quarter of 2016.

Analysts have been broadly upbeat about earnings thus far, with most companies besting lowered expectations.

Oil producers Marathon Oil and Apache jumped 6.6 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively after the Trump administration announced it would no longer permit waivers for countries that have imported Iranian oil, lifting crude prices.

Kimberly-Clark, which makes toilet paper, diapers and other paper products, shot up 5.4 per cent after reporting that first-quarter net profit surged nearly 400 per cent to US$454 million.

Bed, Bath & Beyond fell four percent as it announced a shakeup of its board, naming five new directors to make up for five departures. The company has faced pressure from shareholder activists.

Tesla Motors dropped 3.9 per cent after a video showing one of its autos suddenly bursting into flames in Shanghai went viral.

The company, which has faced scrutiny over its growth plans and its management by chief executive Elon Musk, said it had launched an investigation.

AFP