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US: Wall Street edges lower, energy stocks fall

[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 slipped on Wednesday after ending the previous session with a record and the Nasdaq failed to hold all-time highs reached earlier in the day while investors waited for more earnings reports.

Energy stocks were the biggest drag on the S&P 500 as oil prices fell. While the tech-heavy Nasdaq had help from eBay Inc's upbeat earnings and a chipmaker rally, investors were digesting a mixed bag of reports. The S&P 500, closing roughly 0.5 per cent below its intraday record high hit in late September, has rallied about 17 per cent year-to-date. It has been supported by a dovish Federal Reserve, hopes of a US-China trade deal and largely upbeat earnings. But, with big companies such as Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc, reporting after the close on Wednesday and Amazon.com and Intel Corp reports on tap for Thursday afternoon, many investors kept to the sidelines.

"While the expectations are for good reports from all four of them, recent strength and relative valuations are keeping people on the edge of their seat," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

"There was no needle moving news today for people to be making bigger bets on anything after the big move we had yesterday."

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In aftermarket trading, Microsoft shares rose about three per cent and Facebook shares gained nearly five per cent.

At the market close on Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 59.34 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 26,597.05, the S&P 500 lost 6.43 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 2,927.25 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.81 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 8,102.02.

Profits of S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 1.1 per cent for the first quarter, still a large improvement from the 2.3 per cent drop estimated at the start of April. And nearly 78 per cent of the 129 companies that have reported so far have surpassed earnings estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

"The overall picture confirms the economy is on a steady footing. It's skewing to the positive side," said Laura Kane, head of Americas thematic investing at UBS Global Wealth Management.

"The market is taking a pause," she said. "We've a lot of earnings coming this week and next. There's nothing today that would change the overall economic outlook."

Only three of the S&P 500's 11 major industry sectors ended the day in positive territory, and real estate led the gainers with a 0.8 per cent rise. Energy was the biggest decliner with a 1.9 per cent drop.

The technology sector lost its gains late in the session to close down 0.01 per cent and the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index closed up 0.95 per cent after hitting an all-time high during the session. Texas Instruments Inc rose 1.8 per cent after its quarterly report.

Caterpillar Inc fell three per cent as rising costs hit margins in its construction equipment business and the company reported tepid sales in the Asia-Pacific region.

AT&T Inc was the biggest drag on the S&P 500, declining four per cent after the second-largest US wireless carrier reported quarterly revenue below Wall Street estimates.

EBay jumped five per cent after the company raised its full-year sales and profit forecasts.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp jumped 11.6 per cent, providing the biggest boost to the S&P 500, after Occidental Petroleum Corp sought to scuttle Chevron Corp's takeover of the company with a US$57 billion bid.

Boeing Co closed up 0.38 per cent even after scrapping its 2019 outlook and reporting quarterly revenue below estimates due to grounding of its 737 MAX jets. Its shares have lost about 11 per cent since the deadly Ethiopian crash in early March.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.01-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.09-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 49 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 96 new highs and 37 new lows.

On US exchanges 6.57 billion shares changed hands compared with the 6.65 billion-share average for the last 20 sessions.

REUTERS