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US: Wall St opens flat as investors assess earnings

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street opened little changed on Tuesday as investors assessed quarterly earnings from some big names and awaited results from Apple.

Dow component Merck fell 1.3 per cent to US$59.90, while Eli Lilly fell 2.5 per cent to US$75.59.

Apple, which is scheduled to report results after the close of the bell, was up 0.12 per cent at US$117.79.

3M fell 1.9 per cent to US$167.97 after the maker of Scotch tape and Post-it notes trimmed its full-year revenue and earnings forecasts for the second time.

Procter & Gamble rose 3.9 per cent to US$87.50 after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

Annualized third-quarter earnings from S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 1.1 per cent, following four quarters of contraction, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Of the 120 companies that have reported so far, 78 per cent have beaten analyst expectations, above the long-term average of 63.5 per cent.

"Investors are looking at earnings which have been okay for the most part," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey. "It's not just the numbers that investors are looking at but also what the companies are saying especially about the big macro picture."

Investors will also be keeping an eye on consumer confidence numbers for October which are expected to have fallen slightly. That data is expected at 10 am ET (1400 GMT).

At 9:45 am ET (1345 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 12.47 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 18,210.56, the S&P 500 was down 2.01 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 2,149.32 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 1.87 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 5,307.96.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the consumer discretionary index's 0.78 per cent fall leading the decliners.

The S&P 500 hit a two-week high on Monday, helped by strong earnings, while a flurry of acquisitions indicated corporate America continues to see untapped value in the market.

Global stocks were also higher on Tuesday as upbeat economic data and signs of a revival in inflation pushed up stocks and commodity prices and kept the dollar at a nine-month high.

Oil edged up ahead of the release of US crude inventory data, which in recent weeks has provided bullish surprises, but top-level comments from Opec members regarding chances of an output cut kept a lid on prices.

The dollar index was up 0.26 per cent at 99.02 against a basket of major currencies, its highest level since early February. A strong dollar could dent the earnings of large multinationals.

Whirlpool fell 9.8 per cent at US$153.61 after the home appliances maker's revenue took a hit from a strong dollar.

Under Armour fell 14.3 per cent to US$32.40 after the sportswear maker reported its slowest quarterly sales growth in six years.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,432 to 1,143. On the Nasdaq, 1,190 issues fell and 1,000 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed nine new 52-week highs and seven new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 37 new highs and 24 new lows.