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US: Wall Street ends flat as commodities weigh


[NEW YORK] Wall Street finished little changed on Monday as a better-than-expected start to corporate earnings season boosted investor confidence, but gains were curbed by a drop in commodities.

Shares of technology companies were among the bright spots, helping the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite to its third straight record close as investor focus shifts to earnings from Greece and China. The top five boosts to the S&P 500 were from the tech sector.

Gold prices plunged to their lowest in more than five years while copper prices hit their lowest in nearly two weeks.

Oil prices fell on signs of a growing glut in refined products to pull the S&P energy index down 1.3 per cent.

The dollar index rose 0.17 per cent to US$98.04. It had earlier hit a three-month high due to expectations of a Federal Reserve rate hike this year. "You've got an interesting dynamic in the S&P 500, so you put Greece in the rear-view mirror and then have the first week of earnings end with a better-than-expected style, and that brings you back up to the top end of the range, or at least close to it," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York. "But when you have commodity pressure, if you have energy down a full percentage point on the S&P today - that is going to be a tough hurdle to get over." IBM lost 3.6 per cent to US$167.01 in extended trade after its quarterly results on Monday. Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft are due later this week.

So far, 70 per cent of companies have reported earnings above analyst expectations, above the 63 per cent average beat rate since 1994. Earnings are expected to decline 2.1 per cent for the quarter, a modest improvement from the expected 3 per cent fall on July 1.

However, 55 per cent have topped revenue forecasts, below the 61 per cent average beat rate since 2002. US companies were expected to post their worst sales decline in nearly six years in the second quarter, in part due to the strong dollar that reduces the value of US companies' overseas income.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 13.96 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 18,100.41, the S&P 500 gained 1.64 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 2,128.28 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.72 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 5,218.86.

The S&P 500 is less than 3 points from its record close of 2,130.82 on May 21.

Morgan Stanley touched its highest level in seven years after the bank's profit beat expectations. However, it relinquished gains and closed down 0.4 per cent at US$40.01.

NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancers 2,086 to 967, for a 2.16-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,935 issues fell and 893 advanced for a 2.17-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 43 new 52-week highs and 31 lows; the Nasdaq Composite 121 new highs and 139 lows.

Volume was muted, with about 5.84 billion shares traded on US exchanges, below the 6.56 billion average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.