US stocks end lower as market awaits earnings

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Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, April 9, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished a quiet session mostly lower on Thursday (April 11) as investors looked ahead to bank results that will kick off first-quarter earnings season.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.1 per cent to finish the day at 26,143.05.

The broad-based S&P 500 was flat at 2,888.32, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.2 per cent to close at 7,947.36.

Investors are looking ahead to Friday's reports from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, which unofficially launch the reporting season that accelerates later this month.

Analysts have dropped their forecasts for the results, setting a low bar that analysts say could be easy to clear.

"The market has been pretty punishing in terms of earnings expectations," said Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager of Manulife Asset Management.

"There's a reasonable chance we'll see a decent amount of beats relative to the lower consensus levels."

Shares of JPMorgan rose 0.9 per cent, while Wells Fargo slipped 0.1 per cent. JPMorgan is projected to notch a modest drop in earnings per share compared with the same quarter of last year, while Wells Fargo's is expected to see an increase, according to consensus forecasts.

The bank results come on the heels of solid earnings released Wednesday by Delta Air Lines, which enjoyed a second positive day in a row.

Delta gained 0.9 per cent, while American Airlines rose 2.3 per cent and United Continental 1.5 per cent.

Tesla Motors fell 2.8 per cent following a report in Nikkei Asian Review that said Tesla and Panasonic were freezing an expansion plan at its US electric auto battery plant amid concerns over weakening demand for the vehicles.

A Tesla spokesperson said the company would make new investments "as needed," but that it had found "there is far more output to be gained from improving existing production equipment than was previously estimated."

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