U.S. Stocks Falter on Mixed Earnings Reports

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Dow Jones Industrial Average up slightly

-- S&P 500 flat; Nasdaq slips

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-- European shares slide

Major U.S. stock index wobbled Wednesday, weighed down by concerns of a pickup in trade tensions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average recently edged higher after paring its gain of roughly 182 points earlier in the session. Stocks slid late in the morning after U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accused Beijing of employing protectionist actions under the guise of free trade.

"The Chinese have for quite a little while been superb at free-trade rhetoric and even more superb at highly protectionist activities," Mr. Ross told a trade panel Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland.

The comments followed earlier remarks by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Davos that the Trump administration supports "bilateral trade agreements," which steepened the U.S. dollar's decline and added to investors' fears of a possible trade war.

"It seems like the government is moving toward a more-protectionist policy," said Larry Peruzzi, managing director of international equity trading at Mischler Financial. "Firms that would be hurt the most would be our exporters, and [technology] is one of our biggest exports."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46 points, or 0.2%, to 26254 in recent trading. The S&P 500 was up less than 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.4%.

Shares of technology companies in the S&P 500 fell 0.6%, making it the broad index's worst-performing sector. Chip maker Intel was down 1.3% in recent trading, while Apple shed 1.6%.

Company earning announcements also contributed some of the biggest individual stock moves.

Shares of United Continental Holdings fell 11% after investors worried that the airline's expansion plans threatened profit margins and could spark a price war among its rivals. Shares of four other airlines due to report earnings Thursday slipped as well, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines Group.

Shares of Texas Instruments tumbled 9.4% after the chip maker said a one-time charge related to the tax law cut into short-term earnings, contributing to a 0.7% decline among tech companies in the S&P 500.

Those losses offset gains among companies that reported generally positive results. Shares of W.W. Grainger added 16% after the distributor of cleaning supplies, safety gear and other items that are used to operate factories, schools and commercial buildings reported better-than-expected earnings.

Navient shares gained 6.5% after the student-loan servicer swung to a net loss due to a one-time write-down of deferred-tax assets. Excluding the write-down, Navient reported a profit slightly ahead of analysts' projections.

Earlier the ICE U.S. Dollar Index fell below 90 for the first time since December 2014 after Mr. Mnuchin said a weaker dollar was good for trade.

The dollar has been on a downward trend for months, hit by growing confidence in economies outside the U.S., particularly the eurozone, and a sense their central banks might be stepping off the accelerator on stimulus programs.

While a weaker dollar tends to be a boon for S&P 500 multinationals, with the index generating roughly 30% of revenues outside the U.S., according to FactSet, the currency's slide isn't helpful for their overseas counterparts. International multinationals' revenues are worth less when translated back into stronger local currencies.

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.5% to snap a four-session winning streak, while Japan's Nikkei declined 0.8% to halt a three-day streak of gains.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 24, 2018 14:57 ET (19:57 GMT)

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