Wall Street opens flat amid mixed earnings reports, oil prices fall on profit taking

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks were little changed on Thursday as weak earnings reports from index heavyweights Verizon and Travelers were offset by AmEx's strong showing.

Verizon fell 2.8 per cent, weighing the most on the S&P, after the wireless carrier reported a drop in quarterly revenue. Rival AT&T fell 2 per cent.

The S&P 500 telecom services sector tumbled 2.2 per cent, the biggest loser among the 11 major S&P 500 indexes.

Travelers was the top drag on the Dow, falling 4.2 per cent after the insurer posted a 22.8 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Helping the Dow and the S&P cut losses was American Express's 6.6 per cent jump following its strong results and forecast.

EBay tumbled 9.1 per cent after its disappointing forecast for the current quarter. "Today is going to be earnings driven, but with no real clear direction in the market," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The mostly dour reports could dent the chances of S&P 500 companies having snapped a four-quarter earnings recession in the third quarter.

About 80 percent of the 70 S&P 500 companies that had reported results until Wednesday beat profit estimates. Earnings are expected to have risen 0.5 percent in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

But, Thursdays round of earnings reports could lower the estimated increase. Microsoft and Schlumberger are scheduled to report after markets close.

At 9:51 a.m. ET (9:51 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 3.63 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 18,198.99. The S&P 500 was down 2.15 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 2,142.14 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 7.50 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5,238.91.

Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 indexes were lower. The energy's 0.53 per cent drop was the second biggest.

Oil prices fell 2 per cent as investors booked profits a day after crude rose to a 15-month high on an unseasonal draw in stockpiles.