Stocks close mostly flat; Ralph Lauren drops 12%

Stocks ended Thursday's trading mostly unchanged as cautious investors focused on a large batch of earnings reports from U.S. companies, including Facebook and Merck.

Ryder System, a truck leasing company, fell 8% after reporting earnings that fell far short of what Wall Street analysts expected. Clothing company Ralph Lauren plunged 12% after announcing its chief executive is leaving the company.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 6.03 points, or less than 0.1%, to 19,884.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.30 points, or 0.1%, to 2,280.85 and the Nasdaq composite fell 6.45 points, or 0.1%, to 5,636.20.

After a postelection rally that pushed stocks to all-time highs and the Dow above the 20,000-point mark, investors have stepped back this week. Several actions by President Trump, including last week’s executive order on immigration and his various comments on trade, have given investors some concern about whether Trump is hurting U.S. business confidence and the economy more than he's helping.

“The overall economic and financial backdrop for the market looks quite good, but Trump's comments are spreading some uncertainty,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Some of that uncertainty could come Friday with the government's jobs report for January. For last month — which covers the end of President Obama’s tenure and the beginning of Trump’s — economists surveyed by FactSet are expecting to see that employers created 175,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate remained at 4.7%. However, some recent data, including Wednesday's ADP private-sector report, have given some traders hope that more than 200,000 jobs were created.

The report is likely to be politically fraught. Trump has called for measuring unemployment in different ways, through nontraditional metrics such as the labor participation rate or the unemployment rate that includes measurements of workers in part-time jobs who want full-time work.

Investors had a large batch of earnings and company news to work through Thursday.

Ralph Lauren sank 12% to $77.61 after the company's CEO unexpectedly departed the company after less than two years there. Stefan Larsson came from Old Navy and had been charged with turning around the clothing brand as the company’s founder continues to step back.

Facebook fell 1.8% to $130.84 despite reporting results that easily exceeded analysts' expectations. The social media giant continues to see huge growth in mobile and video advertising, which has bolstered its bottom line.

GoPro posted disappointing results after markets closed, and it plunged more than 13% in after-hours trading. The maker of action video cameras had climbed 3.8% to $10.97 during regular trading.

U.S. government bond prices were mostly unchanged. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.47%. The euro slipped to $1.0764 from $1.0774 and the dollar fell to 112.70 yen from 113.09 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 34 cents to $53.54 a barrel. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 24 cents to $56.92 a barrel. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.65 a gallon and wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to $1.53 a gallon. Natural gas rose 2 cents to $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $11.10 to $1,219.40 an ounce, silver fell 2 cents to $17.43 an ounce and copper fell 3 cents to $2.686 a pound. 

ALSO

Super Bowl is expected to draw a giant TV audience despite the NFL's woes

Trump's threats to booming Mexico auto industry have executives' heads spinning

Nestle USA to move headquarters from California to Virginia, affecting 1,200 jobs


UPDATES:

4 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.

8 a.m.: This article was updated with market prices and context.

This article was originally published at 6:55 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
82°