Wall Street opens flat, indexes set for best month in four years

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Friday as investors paused on the last trading day of what could be the best month for the three major indexes in four years.

Energy majors Exxon and Chevron reported better-than- expected results, helped by strong refining margins. Exxon shares were down 1 per cent, while Chevron rose 1.9 per cent.

The consumer staples sector was down 0.64 per cent, leading the three decliners among the 10 major S&P sectors, after data showed U.S. consumer spending barely rose in September.

Investors will get more clues on consumer spending when the University of Michigan's final index on consumer sentiment, which is expected to rise to 92.5 in October from 92.1 in September, is released at 10:00 a.m.

As the earning season winds down, investors will be looking at data over the next several weeks to assess the state of the economy before the Federal Reserve's policy meeting in December.

The Fed made it clear on Wednesday that a rate hike in December was still possible if there was sufficient evidence that the economy could withstand an increase.

At 9:42 a.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average was up 5.88 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 17,761.68, the S&P 500 was up 0.77 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 2,090.18 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 7.19 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5,081.47.

Abbvie was up 8.6 per cent at $58.75, giving the biggest boost to the S&P 500, while CVS Health fell 6.9 per cent to $96.64 after results.

Keycorp fell 5.6 per cent to $12.63 after it said it would buy First Niagara Financial for $4.1 billion. First Niagara rose less than a per cent.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals was down 6.1 per cent at $104.69 after it said it was cutting all ties with specialty pharmacy Philidor.

LinkedIn shot up 9.6 per cent to $237.76 while Expedia jumped 7.5 per cent to $136.59 after their quarterly results beat estimates.

Baidu's U.S.-listed shares were up 7.2 per cent at $181.12 after strong results and provided the biggest boost to the Nasdaq Composite.

Strong results from blue-chips have helped improve analyst sentiment, with profits at S&P 500 companies now expected to fall 1.7 per cent, far less than the 4.9 per cent drop forecast at the start of earnings season, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The Fed's Board of Governors will hold an open meeting in Washington on policies regarding large banking organizations.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams is slated to take part in a discussion on interest rates.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,417 to 1,250. On the Nasdaq, 1,281 issues fell and 985 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 10 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 31 new lows.