MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stocks Struggle To Defend Records As Third-quarter Earnings Season Gets Under Way

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10/12/2017 | 04:51 pm


By Sue Chang, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica



J.P. Morgan posted better-than-expected earnings but trading slumped



U.S. stocks are struggling to hold on to records on Thursday, as investors read the first of a batch of third-quarter corporate results from the banking sector, led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup Inc.





What are the main benchmarks doing?



The Dow Jones Industrial Average is off 6 points, or less than 0.1%, to 22,867. The S&P 500 index shed 2 points, or 0.1%, at 2,55, while the Nasdaq Composite edged up 4 points to 6,608.



All three indexes closed at records on Wednesday, extending their strong year-to-date moves. Thus far in 2017, the Dow has gained nearly 16%, the S&P is up 14%, and the Nasdaq has risen 23%.





And



What is driving markets?



Analysts expect banks to kick off what is likely to be strong season of third-quarter corporate results and extend the market's record-setting streak.



On the data front, initial weekly jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 243,000 in early October to mark the lowest level in six weeks. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast claims to total 250,000. The producer-price index rose 0.4% , matching consensus expectations.



Meanwhile, Fed Gov. Jerome Powell, speaking to the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance, said emerging markets should be able to withstand the Fed's tightening initiatives, which could boost the dollar. He also described asset prices as "elevated."



Ex-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank should adopt "temporary" price-level targeting when interest rates next get stuck at zero, speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Thursday.



What are strategists saying?



"Basic fundamentals are good, companies are making money, and I think the market will be relatively strong throughout earnings season, but I don't see a huge spike up between now and the end of the year because a lot [of earnings optimism] has been priced in," said Gary Droz, managing director at MainLine Private Wealth.



Equities have gone an unusually long time without a pronounced pullbacks, with dips of even 3% in short supply. Droz said this was something that merited watching.



"We don't want to lull ourselves into a complete coma. Anything could trigger a drawdown; markets need to breathe," he said.



Analysts at Bespoke Investment Group noted that the big picture for the market remains positive as steady rotational buying continues to emerge in technology and consumer-discretionary sectors as energy, financials and industrials take a breather. "This sector rotation is a telltale sign of a healthy market, and it's been happening over and over again all year," the report indicated.



Which stocks look like key movers?



J.P. Morgan(>> JP Morgan Chase & Company) posted earnings and revenue that beat expectations , although its trading revenue was weak amid a quiet period for markets. Shares dipped 0.9%.



Citigroup(C)reported a higher-than-expected profit , but shares slid 2.1%. The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF(>> Financial Select Sector SPDR (ETF)) lost 0.4%.



Both J.P. Morgan and Citigroup have been strong performers over the past year; J.P. Morgan is up 41% and Citigroup has gained more than 50% over the past 12 months.



Domino's Pizza Inc. (>> Domino's Pizza, Inc.) reported earnings and sales that beat expectations , but shares fell 4.7%.



And



Telecom AT&T Inc.(T), retailer J. Jill Inc.(>> J.Jill Inc) and networking equipment maker Juniper Networks Inc.(>> Juniper Networks, Inc.) look on track for down days after each company issued a profit warning late Wednesday.



Shares of AT&T lost 4.1% while J. Jill tumbled 50%. Juniper slumped 6.3%.



Health-care stocks were mixed after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to consider expanding health-insurance coverage in low-cost plans that aren't subject to Affordable Care Act rules, a move that could raise costs for sicker people. The order is designed to provide what the White House calls "alternatives" to plans offered through Obamacare markets.



Cigna Corp.(>> CIGNA Corporation) and Humana Inc.(>> Humana Inc) are higher while Aetna Inc.(>> Aetna Inc) shares fell.



CarGurus Inc.(CARG) soared 77% on its Nasdaq debut after pricing shares of its initial public offering above an expected range . The company helps buyers find deals on new and used cars.



What are other assets doing?



Bitcoin on Thursday was soaring to new all-time highs above $5,100 .



European stocks were little changed, while most Asian markets closed higher, with Japan's Nikkei benchmark finishing at a fresh 21-year high .



Gold futures gained , while oil futures pulled back as the International Energy Agency said the world's crude supply expanded in September on the back of steady U.S. production growth. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index edged higher after falling Wednesday as minutes from the last Fed meeting showed some policy makers wondered whether an interest rate rise was needed in December.



--Victor Reklaitis contributed to this article.





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