Wall St trims gains as investors look for fresh catalysts

Financial shares rallied after US economic growth was revised upward.
Pedestrians walk past a Wall Street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York, US.
Pedestrians walk past a Wall Street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York, US.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

(REUTERS) - US stocks pared gains in early afternoon trading on Thursday (March 30) as investors sought fresh triggers in the run up to the first-quarter earnings.

All the three major indexes were also weighed down by a 0.4 per cent drop in Apple's shares to US$143.54 (S$200.07).

CNBC's Jim Cramer suggested there could be a "pause" in the stock after Samsung's new Galaxy S8 flagship device received positive reviews.

Economic data earlier in the day showed that the domestic economy grew at a faster pace in the fourth quarter than previously estimated. Gross domestic product increased 2.1 per cent, compared with the previously reported 1.9 per cent, the Commerce Department said.

The market has been range bound in the past few days after hitting a series of record highs, powered by President Donald Trump's pro-growth agenda.

That rally stalled recently as investors assessed the impact of Republicans' failure to pass a healthcare bill on tax reform and the rest of Trump's economic agenda. "We expect the rally to fade today, given intraday overbought conditions and a lack of positive momentum," said Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist at brokerage BTIG.

The rapid climb in equities has raised concerns regarding valuations, with the S&P 500 trading at nearly 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months against its long-term average of 15 times.

The market will be looking at quarterly earnings to see if the lofty valuations can be supported. First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. "The market has been quiet in the past few days and are looking forward to the first-quarter earnings in the absence of any major economic data," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

At 12:50 am ET (1650 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24.98 points, or 0.12 percent, at 20,684.3.

The S&P 500 was up 2.85 points, or 0.12 per cent, at 2,363.98.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 4.07 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 5,901.61.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the financial index's 0.88 per cent rise leading the advancers.

Lululemon Athletica plunged as much as 23.4 per cent to a more than one-year low of $50.80 after the Canadian yoga and leisure apparel retailer said first-quarter comparable sales were expected to fall. The stock was among the biggest drags on the S&P.

ConocoPhillips rose 7.2 per cent to $49.24 after the company said it agreed to sell oil sands and western Canadian natural gas assets to Cenovus Energy. Cenovus was down 12.2 per cent at $11.48.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,593 to 1,250. On the Nasdaq, 1,494 issues rose and 1,278 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 20 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 78 new highs and 16 new lows.