A day of mostly listless trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with U.S. stocks giving back modest gains from the day before.
Telecom stocks declined the most, weighed down by a slide in shares of AT&T, Sprint and other phone companies. Only healthcare stocks eked out a gain. The broad slide snapped a two-day winning streak for the market. Energy futures and precious metals also fell.
Investors mostly waded through another round of earnings reports, looking to glean insights into the health of corporate America and the U.S. economy. Although some companies turned in disappointing results, most of those that have posted earnings so far are beating financial analysts' expectations, said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
"Overall, it's been a very, very good earnings season," Kinahan said.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 40.27 points, or 0.2%, to 18,162.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2.95 points, or 0.2%, to 2,141.34. The Nasdaq composite index slid 4.58 points, or 0.1%, to 5,241.83.
The major stock indexes are all up for the week.
About 15% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported quarterly results so far this earnings period. Of those, more than 80% have turned in earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations, Kinahan said.
Financial companies have been among the best performers so far.
On Thursday, investors bid up shares in American Express, which reported better-than-anticipated earnings late Wednesday and raised its annual outlook. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 9% to $66.78.
Toy maker Mattel also got a boost, rising 6% to $32.46 the day after it reported strong earnings.
Snap-on climbed 6.7% to $159.06 after the tool and diagnostic equipment maker posted a larger profit than analysts had forecast.
Several other companies posted results that failed to impress investors.
EBay slumped 10.8% to $29.02 after the e-commerce giant reported disappointing fourth-quarter results. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500.
Union Pacific fell 6.7% to $90.64 after the railroad operator said weak demand for consumer goods had dampened its freight and coal shipments volume.
Verizon fell 2.5% to $49.14 after the company posted weak quarterly revenue as it added far fewer wireless and internet service subscribers than a year earlier.
Shares in other phone companies also fell. AT&T went down 1.9% to $38.65, and Sprint slid 2.3% to $6.72. T-Mobile US retreated 0.6% to $47.05.
Traders also weighed some new economic data Thursday.
The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level in five weeks, though it remained close to a recent 43-year low. Separately, the National Assn. of Realtors said September sales of previously owned homes rose 3.2% from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million, the strongest pace since June.
Stock indexes in Europe closed higher. Germany's DAX gained 0.5%, France's CAC-40 rose 0.4%, and London's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1%. Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 1.4%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.3%.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.17, or 2.3%, to $50.43 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid $1.29, or 2.4%, to $51.38 a barrel in London.
Other energy futures also closed lower. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.49 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $3.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In metals trading, the price of gold fell $2.40 to $1,267.50 an ounce. Silver fell 11 cents to $17.55 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.10 a pound.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.75%.
In currency markets, the dollar increased to 103.96 yen from Wednesday's 103.39 yen, while the euro weakened to $1.0928 from $1.2275.
3:10 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, analysis and additional market information.
7:50 a.m.: This article was updated with more recent prices and additional market information.