Wall Street opens flat as investors parse earnings

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US stocks were little changed on Thursday as investors assessed quarterly earnings from big banks, while economic data pointed to strength in the labor market.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo shares were down 1 per cent each in premarket trading after the banks posted lower quarterly earnings.

The results come a day after JPMorgan beat lowered expectations for first-quarter profit and revenue. "We're looking at a flattish kind of market that is looking to grasp a positive theme and the banks haven't delivered this morning," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

The S&P financial sector is down nearly 4 per cent for the year - the worst performer among the 10 major S&P sectors - weighed down by the uncertainty surrounding U.S. interest rates and potential defaults in the energy sector.

At 9.38 am ET (9.38 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 4.25 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 17,904.03, the S&P 500 was down 1.4 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 2,081.02 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 7.86 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 4,939.56. Five of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower. Technology was down 0.3 per cent, while industrials was up 0.20 per cent.

Expectations for corporate earnings are weak, with S&P 500 companies on average seen posting a 7.8 per cent decline in first-quarter profit, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Data on Thursday showed US consumer prices rose 0.1 per cent in March, below the estimated 0.2 per cent rise, while jobless claims fell by 13,000 to 253,000 last week, well below the 270,000 expected.