Wall Street steady as data offsets earnings

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Published October 26, 2012

| Reuters

Stocks were little changed on Friday, after data showed the economy grew at a faster pace than expected, overshadowing recent concerns about a disappointing earnings season so far.

Investor sentiment got a boost after the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product expanded at a 2.0 percent annual rate. That follows 1.3 percent growth in the second quarter, and was just a tick above the 1.9 percent estimate of analysts polled by Reuters.

Still, the positive data may not be enough to stem a recent slide in the market, which has seen the S&P drop 3.7 percent from near five-year highs on September 14.

"The fact that this was a two percent GDP number is still pathetic in the overall scheme of life - we ought to be growing at four percent, not two percent," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist, at Federated Investors, in New York.

Apple Inc , slipped 1.2 percent to $602.15 after the world's largest publicly-traded company by market capitalization reported a second straight quarter of disappointing results and iPad sales fell well short of analysts' targets. The company also forecast revenue and margins below Wall Street forecasts.

But Amazon.com Inc climbed 4.4 percent to $241.96 after reporting its first quarterly net loss in more than five years as it spent heavily on technology, infrastructure and digital content, as analysts said it would boost profit in the long run.

The S&P 500 has dropped 1.8 percent this week as dismal corporate earnings and cautious outlooks, especially from large multinationals, painted a pessimistic picture of the global economy.

Adding to uncertainty was the impending U.S. presidential election on November 6, which, along with earnings and growth worries, helped drop the benchmark S&P index to below a key support level, the 50-day moving average, at around 1,434.

Many analysts expect the retreat to wane near 1,400 or 1,375, as the Federal Reserve's latest stimulus policy puts a floor under equity prices.

With 244 companies in the S&P 500 having reported through Thursday, 62.3 percent have beaten earnings expectations, a tad better than the typical 62 percent average, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Revenue for the quarter has been more disappointing, with just 36.3 percent of companies reporting higher-than-expected revenue - compared with a historic beat rate of 62 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 5.99 points, or 0.05 percent, to 13,097.69. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 0.73 points, or 0.05 percent, to 1,412.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.55 points, or 0.19 percent, to 2,991.67.

In what may bode well for consumer-related profits in the latter portion of the current earnings season, a survey showed U.S. consumer sentiment rose to its highest in five years in October as Americans were more upbeat about prospects for the economy and their own finances.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co slumped 7.6 percent to $11.36 after it said quarterly profit fell amid lower tire sales in all its key markets, particularly in Europe.

Dow component Merck & Co Inc edged up 0.5 percent to $46.54 after the drugmaker reported better-than-expected third-quarter profit, though overall sales came in slightly below Wall Street expectations.

Newell Rubbermaid Inc reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its quarterly dividend by 50 percent to 15 cents a share but also said it would cut about 2,000 jobs over the next 2 1/2 years as it attempts to combat slower sales. Its shares climbed 4.5 percent to $21.

Arch Coal Inc surged 13.5 percent to $8.30 after surprising Wall Street with a third-quarter profit as cost cuts paid off, and thermal coal shipments improved.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Kenneth Barry)

(This story corrects Apple share price in paragraph five)

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