Stocks end mixed as Wall Street assesses company earnings reports

A trader chewing gum blows a bubble while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
(Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images)

Stocks posted an uneven finish Tuesday on Wall Street, handing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index its second decline in a row.

An early gain faded as investors assessed a mixed bag of corporate results and looked ahead to a heavy schedule of news about companies and the economy.

Xerox and 3M rose after reporting solid results, but Harley-Davidson fell. Apple, which alarmed traders this month when it disclosed that demand for iPhones is waning, reported earnings that beat Wall Street’s forecasts.

“We think earnings are good and economic growth is good. It’s just not great like it was last year,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist for LPL Financial.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 51.74 points, or 0.2%, to 24,579.96. The benchmark S&P 500 index slipped 3.85 points, or 0.1%, to 2,640.


The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 57.39 points, or 0.8%, to 7,028.29. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slipped 2.09 points, or 0.1%, to 1,471.45.

Declines by technology and media companies outweighed solid gains by industrial and healthcare stocks.

Of the 22% of S&P 500 companies that have reported results for the October-through-December quarter, about 46% have posted earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street’s expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Corning delivered an upbeat fourth-quarter report, topping forecasts. The company expects more growth for its display-glass and optical communications segments, which makes screens for electronic devices and fiber optic cables. Its shares jumped 11.1% to $33.72.

Pfizer climbed 3.1% to $40.77 after the world’s largest drugmaker reported mixed results. Although hefty costs for layoffs and acquisitions weighed on fourth-quarter profit, the results still beat Wall Street forecasts. The company has been struggling to upgrade sterile injectable-drug factories it bought from Hospira, but repairs have dragged on and production shutdowns have cut into sales.

Pfizer also gave Wall Street a weak sales and profit outlook for the year, but the company is still coming off a good year, getting four new cancer drugs that could be blockbusters approved in the last 14 weeks of 2018.

Nucor, the biggest U.S. steelmaker, climbed 2.8% to $60.13 after it said profit surged 68.5% during the quarter thanks in large part to a growing economy. It also saw increased steel shipments and prices.

Xerox jumped 11.4% to $27.07 on better-than-expected fourth-quarter results and an upbeat forecast as it restructures its operations. 3M rose 1.9% to $196.95 on upbeat fourth-quarter results and a positive forecast.

Other companies’ results failed to impress.

Harley-Davidson shares dropped 5.1% to $34.76 after the motorcycle maker reported a decline in sales worldwide, led by a weak showing in the United States. Shipments worldwide fell 7.9%. The company, which has been struggling to boost sales domestically, has been increasingly looking to sell more bikes overseas. It has warned that the ongoing trade dispute with China would raise costs.

GameStop plunged 27.2% to $11.28 after the video game retailer said it will no longer pursue a sale because of difficulty securing financing. The stock is at its lowest value in nearly 14 years.

Despite Tuesday’s mixed finish, the market is still on track to close out January with solid gains after a lousy December as Wall Street fretted over the U.S.-China trade conflict, uncertainty over the path of interest rates and signs of a weakening global economy.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators will sit down for two days of trade talks starting Wednesday in Washington. Those talks could be more tense than usual. China has called on Washington to “stop the unreasonable crackdown” on telecom equipment maker Huawei, warning it would defend its companies. The statement comes after the United States escalated pressure on the tech giant by indicting it on charges of stealing technology and violating sanctions on Iran.

Among other potential market-moving news this week:

The Federal Reserve ends its latest interest rate policy meeting Wednesday. The federal government releases its monthly employment report, the most important indicator on the U.S. economy, on Friday.

The jobs report will have even more importance than usual because many other reports on the economy have been delayed because of the five-week partial shutdown of the federal government that ended Friday.

U.S. crude oil rose 2.5% to $53.31 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 2.3% to $61.32 a barrel in London.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.71% from 2.74% late Monday.

The dollar weakened to 109.28 yen from 109.36 yen. The euro held steady against the dollar at $1.1427.

Gold rose 0.4% to $1,308.90 an ounce. Silver rose 0.5% to $15.84 an ounce. Copper rose 1.7% to $2.73 a pound.