New York: Wall Street stocks ended mixed on Wednesday after a two-day rally as the market turned cautious with the opening of the third-quarter corporate earnings season.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.67 points (0.06%) to close at 9,725.58, recovering some steeper losses from earlier in the day.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite ended with a gain of 6.76 points (0.32%) and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 2.86 points (0.27%) to 1,057.58.
With economic news light, the market tried to gauge whether corporate earnings reports would shed light on the pace of recovery from the brutal recession.
“Stocks struggled to pick a direction today, as investors were on the fence ahead of the unofficial commencement of the third-quarter earnings season,” said Andrea Kramer at Schaeffer’s Investment Research.
“The hot and cold sentiment ahead of Alcoa’s date in the earnings confessional stalled the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s two-session streak of triple-digit gains.”
Alcoa released the first of the earnings from blue-chip companies after the close, but releases from other firms earlier in the day were “mostly positive,” said analysts at Charles Schwab & Co.
After the close of trade, Alcoa surprised the markets by reporting it had swung to a third-quarter profit of $77 million after three consecutive losing quarters. Most analysts had expected another loss.
“The financial and operational measures we took in the first half of the year are having a strong positive impact on our cash position and profitability,” said Alcoa chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld.
“Despite unfavorable currency and energy headwinds, our performance this quarter indicates that Alcoa is weathering the economic storm and is in excellent shape to benefit when the market recovers.”
The aluminum giant rose 2.2% in regular trading to $14.30 after having leapt 9% in two days.
Fred Dickson at DA Davidson & Co. said the market has shown resilience in the face of any selling pressure.
“The stock market rally over the last couple of days once again leads us to conclude that institutional investors with lots of cash are continuing to scramble to put money to work in the stock market on small dips,” he said.
“The stock market also appeared to be helped by global traders moving money into stocks as a hedge against continuing dollar weakness.”
Among other stocks in focus, Monsanto fell 1.37% to $74.33 even after it reported a quarterly profit that exceeded analysts expectations and maintained 2010 earnings forecasts.
Retailer Costco rose 1.85% to $59 after its quarterly profit fell 6% but also beat analysts’ estimates.
Coca-Cola gained 0.90% to $54.81 as its stock was upgraded to “buy” from “hold” by Deutsche Bank.
Telecom giant AT&T fell 2.06% to $26.18 following its decision to allow use of Internet phone applications like Skype on the iPhone amid pressure on wireless and wired carriers for more open access to the Internet.
The bond market rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond fell to 3.175% from 3.248% on Tuesday and that on the 30-year bond dropped to 3.992% from 4.058%. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.