Stocks end little changed as investors digest earnings
KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended Thursday's trading mostly unchanged, as cautious investors focus a large batch of earnings reports from U.S. companies, including Facebook and Merck.
Ryder System, a truck leasing company, fell 8 percent after reporting earnings that fell far short of what Wall Street analysts were expecting. Ralph Lauren plunged 12 percent after announcing that Stefan Larsson, who took over as CEO for Ralph Lauren less than two years ago, is leaving the company.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 6.03 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 19,884.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.30 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,280.85 and the Nasdaq composite fell 6.45 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,636.20.
After a post-election 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, from his immigration ban last weekend, to 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 this report, the first that will be at least partially under the tenure of President Trump, economists are expecting employers created 175,000 jobs in January, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.7 percent, according to FactSet. However some recent data, including Wednesday's ADP private sector report, has given some traders hope for a jobs report over 200,000.
Along with being important to investors as an economic indicator, the report is likely to be politically fraught. President Trump has called for measuring unemployment in different ways, through non-traditional metrics like 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 on Thursday.
Clothing company Ralph Lauren sank $10.76, or 12 percent, to $77.61 after the company's CEO unexpectedly departed the company, after less than two years in the position. Stefan Larsson came from Old Navy and had been charged with turning around the iconic clothing brand as its founder continues step back from the company.
Facebook fell $2.39, or 1.8 percent, to $130.84 despite the company reporting results that easily exceeded analysts' expectations. The company continues to see huge growth in mobile and video advertising, which has bolstered its bottom line.
U.S. government bond prices were mostly unchanged with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note holding steady at 2.47 percent. 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 close at $53.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 24 cents to $56.92 a barrel in London.
In other energy commodities, heating oil lost 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 thousand cubic feet.
In the metals markets, 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.