New York: US stocks finished mostly flat in a choppy session on Wednesday, as investors bet on strong technology earnings even as JPMorgan Chase’s numbers weighed on other market sectors.
Network equipment maker Riverbed Technology Inc boosted the industry and helped buoy the Nasdaq after its quarterly outlook. The stock surged 12.4% to $34.74 on four times the average daily volume over the last 50 days.
“This earnings season is an expectation game,” said King Lip, chief investment officer of Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.
He said after Riverbed’s competitor F5 reported poor earnings in January, “analysts pretty much thought companies like Riverbed were going to miss. That’s why you see the strong reaction in their shares on Wednesday.”
F5 Networks Inc shares gained 3.1% to $96.70.
JPMorgan Chase & Co shares fell 0.8% to $46.25 after earlier rising more than 1%. The Dow component beat expectations with its profit, but enthusiasm waned after the bank’s chief executive said in a conference call there would not be another dividend hike soon.
“Most people had expected JPMorgan to do well. That was factored in already,” Lip said.
In an outline of his budget proposal, President Barack Obama said he would refuse to renew Bush-era tax breaks for wealthier Americans. A deal to extend those cuts last December propelled the S&P 500 to its highest level in two years.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 7.41 points, or 0.06%, to 12,270.99. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Indexinched up 0.25 of a point, or 0.02%, to 1,314.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 16.73 points, or 0.61%, to 2,761.52.
EMC Corp led tech shares higher after a Goldman Sachs analyst said he expects a better-than-consensus quarter for the top maker of corporate data storage equipment. EMC’s shares gained 3.3% to $26.69.
The S&P Information Technology Index added 0.7%.
From a technical perspective, the S&P 500 weakened as its daily moving average convergence-divergence, a gauge of short-term relative performance, triggered a “sell” signal for the first time since late March.
The benchmark S&P 500’s momentum was at its lowest since late March and its relative strength index, near 49, was neutral and far from oversold despite posting losses in four of the last five sessions.
Investors seem to be looking ahead to the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting in two weeks, according to Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist of Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville. The Fed is expected to detail its exit strategy as a $600 billion asset-buying program comes to an end.
“The market is trying to find the right sector to be in, in this kind of environment,” Bittles said.
About 6.9 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, below last year’s estimated daily average of 8.47 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,535 to 1,374, while on the Nasdaq 1,317 shares rose and 1,251 stocks fell.