Wall Street holds steady as investors await big earnings

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed and hovered near record levels in late morning trading on Monday as investors geared up for a busy earnings week from big U.S. companies.

Analysts estimate second-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 companies rose 8.2 percent from a year earlier. First-quarter earnings posted their best performance since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Microsoft (MSFT.O), IBM (IBM.N) and Johnson and Johnson (JNJ.N) are scheduled to report results this week. Netflix (NFLX.O) will report results after the market close on Monday.

Earnings will be closely watched to see if high valuations are justified in the face of tepid inflation and a recent patch of mixed economic data.

The S&P 500 has been trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared with the long-term average of 15 times.

“After new highs that we saw last week, the market deserves a rest as investors await big earnings this week,” said Dave Donabedian, chief investment officer of Atlantic Trust.

“Our view is that right now the equity market is a one-legged stool that’s driven by earnings and we’re pretty optimistic about earnings but if that should falter, the market will falter.”

At 10:56 a.m. ET (1456 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 3.73 points, or 0.02 percent, at 21,641.47, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 1.97 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,461.24.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 5.37 points, or 0.09 percent, at 6,317.83.

Apple’s (AAPL.O) 0.8 percent rise was the biggest boost on all three major indexes.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the consumer discretionary index’s .SPLRCD 0.36 percent rise leading the advancers.

The financial sector .SPSY led the laggards with a 0.15 percent fall after results and forecasts on Friday by big banks such as JPMorgan (JPM.N), Citigroup (C.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N) failed to excite investors.

Bank of America (BAC.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) will report results later this week.

The Dow and the S&P hit record highs on Friday after weak economic data dulled prospects of more interest rate hikes this year.

Shares of BlackRock (BLK.N) fell 3.2 percent after the world’s biggest asset manager’s quarterly profit came in below expectations.

General Cable (BGC.N) jumped 10 percent after the cable manufacturer announced on Sunday a review of strategic alternatives that could include a potential sale of the company.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,702 to 1,020. On the Nasdaq, 1,447 issues rose and 1,187 fell.

Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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