NEW YORK – U.S. stocks were little changed in early trading Thursday as investors assessed company earnings. Energy stocks were among the early gainers as oil recouped some of its losses from a big sell-off on Wednesday.
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KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose a point to 2,083 as of 10:16 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average was flat at 17,898. Nasdaq composite climbed four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,955.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 57 cents to $50.98 in New York. It lost $3.56, or almost 7 percent, to close at $50.42 a barrel on Wednesday after the U.S. Energy Department reported oil in storage was about triple what analysts had estimated.
EARNINGS FOCUS: Company earnings will be an important focus for the market in the coming weeks. Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report that average earnings-per-share shrank by 3.1 percent in the first quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ. If the forecast proves accurate, it will be the first time since 2009, when the U.S. economy was emerging from the Great Recession, that earnings have contracted.
METAL TEST: Alcoa posted a first-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations, but its revenue fell short as the company continues to transform itself from an aluminum maker into a supplier for the auto and aerospace industries. The company's stock dropped 64 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $13.02.
AN UNWELCOME RETURN: Mark Pincus, the founder of online gaming company Zynga, announced late Wednesday that he would return to the company as CEO. Investors were not enthusiastic, and the stock dropped 40 cents, or 14 percent, to $2.50.
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GREEK DRAMA: Investors in Europe were relieved also by confirmation that Greece had met a debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund despite the country's cash crunch. It paid about 450 million euros on Thursday even as it is waiting for more rescue loans from its European state creditors.
EUROPE'S DAY: Britain's FTSE rose 0.9 percent to 6,996.88, while France's CAC 40 climbed 1.1 percent to 5,193.04. Germany's DAX added 0.6 percent to 12,103.92. Wall Street looked set for small gains on the open, with the S&P futures up 0.1 percent and Dow futures roughly flat.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Government bond prices were flat. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 1.91 percent.
The euro slipped to $1.0767 versus $1.0797 on Wednesday. The dollar fell to 119.92 yen after rising to 120.15 yen the day before.