MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Struggles To Maintain Record Altitude As Caterpillar Convulses Lower

By Mark DeCambre and Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatchFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

'This is beginning to look a little too frothy for our liking,' says Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist

U.S. stocks lost steam in early Thursday trade, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average giving up a 100-point gain and the broader benchmarks slipping into negative territory, despite stronger-than-expected quarterly results from a number of industrial giants.

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Market strategists and traders attributed choppy markets to investor exhaustion after repeated records. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank left its monetary policy unchanged, as expected.

What are the main benchmarks doing?

The Dow came off its best level of the session, but was still up 71 points, or less than 0.1%, to 26,323, with Boeing Co. (BA), helping to offset a reversal lower in shares of Caterpillar, while the S&P 500 index traded flat at 2,837. The Nasdaq Composite Index also traded near break-even levels at 7,413.

On Wednesday, the Dow rose 0.2% to a record close (, while the S&P 500 finished 0.1% lower and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.6%.

The three equity gauges are up between 6.1% and 7.4% so far in 2018, adding to last year's sizable gains as investors cheer the expanding U.S. economy and growth in corporate profits.

What's driving markets?

Improved earnings from corporations so far as been the impetus for rising stock-market values, but the market is showing signs of exhaustion, some traders and analysts said.

The European Central Bank, as expected, left interest rates unchanged ( on Thursday and repeated that it expects to keep interest rates at present levels for an "extended period" and "well past" the end of its asset purchase program, which is due to expire in September. Investors will focus on the ECB's news conference set for 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Follow:ECB live: How will Draghi handle a surging euro? (

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that the U.S. dollar "is not a concern of mine," noting that "in the longer term, we fundamentally in the strength of the dollar." The remarks made during a panel discussion at the forum were an attempt to walk back comments the Treasury secretary made a day ago, which implied that he preferred a weaker dollar.

What are strategists saying?

"The market has been racing nonstop towards the finish line and just got a cramp in its leg," said Michael Antonelli, equity sales trader at Robert W. Baird & Co. "The market should be going higher on some of these [corporate quarterly] reports, but this market now strikes me as a runner that has run out of steam, he said.

"While we remain bullish for the year as a whole, this is beginning to look a little too frothy for our liking," said James Barty, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist, in a note on Thursday.

U.S. stock indexes and global benchmarks have been "fast out of the blocks" in the new year, Barty said. "Could equity markets melt up? Possibly," he added. "But additional shorter-term hedges make a lot of sense when things are as frothy as this."

Which stocks look like key movers?

3M Co.(MMM) shares were rising after the manufacturer reported fourth-quarter results that were better than expected on an adjusted basis and increased its quarterly dividend by 16% to $1.36 a share. Shares were up 2.4%, contributing about 40 points to the price-weighted Dow.

Caterpillar Inc. shares (CAT) rose 1.5% (, after the company reported better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter and offered upbeat guidance for 2018.

Celgene Corp.'s stock(CELG) added 1% after the biopharmaceutical company reported a fourth-quarter profit ( that rose above expectations. The company swung to a net loss of $81 million, or 10 cents a share, in the quarter to Dec. 31, from a profit of $429 million, or 53 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc.(AAL) retreated by 3.3% on Thursday after the company reported fourth-quarter earnings ( that were above Wall Street expectations.

Facebook Inc.'s stock (FB)rose 0.3% action, looking by reports that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to blast ( social media companies again for providing platforms to terrorists, child abusers and slave traders. May, who is expected to make these remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has previously criticized ( such companies along these lines.

Ford Motor Co.'s stock (F)looks set for a down day, off 2.8AMZN%, after the car maker late Wednesday reported disappointing fourth-quarter results and reiterated a bleak outlook (

( Inc. shares (AMZN) are up 0.4% in premarket trading Thursday after an analyst at DA Davidson raised his price target on the stock to $1,800.

Home Depot Inc. (HD) said it would pay one-time $1,000 bonuses for U.S. hourly associates following corporate tax cuts. Shares for the home-improvement retailer were little changed. Shares were off 0.7%.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. shares (FCX) jumped 1.6% premarket Thursday, after the mining and metals company posted better-than-expected ( fourth-quarter earnings.

Kroger Co. shares (KR) are up 1.8% in Thursday premarket trading after reports that the grocer is in talks to join wi ( online retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA).

Intel Corp. (INTC)and Starbucks Corp.(SBUX)are expected to report results after the close.

Apple Inc. shares (AAPL) fell 0.9% in Thursday morning ( trading after Morgan Stanley analysts weighed in on the question of iPhone X supply and demand Thursday.

What economic data could help drive markets?

Initial U.S. jobless claims rose by 17,000 to 233,000 ( the seven days ended Jan. 20., below the 240,000 forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch.

Check out:MarketWatch's Economic Calendar (

And the leading economic index jumped 0.6% in December, marking the third straight strong ( and suggesting the U.S. is likely to grow rapidly in early 2018.

Separately, new-home sales were at a 625,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in December (, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

What are other assets doing?

European stocks ( lower as the ECB's President Mario Draghi acknowledged the eurozone economy is improving, sending the euro higher while most Asian markets closed lower. Gold futures and oil futures were gaining, and the ICE U.S. Dollar Index was extending its recent drop ( that has taken it to three-year lows.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 25, 2018 10:51 ET (15:51 GMT)