US stocks waver as earnings and central banks dominate
NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes essentially hit the snooze bar Thursday as investors were relieved the European Central Bank didn't announce any changes to its stimulus policies.
Europe's central bank maintained its current policies and ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank hasn't even set a date for considering changes. Investors were startled a month ago when he spoke about scaling back the stimulus program.
On an up-and-down day of trading, second-quarter results moved other stocks: health care companies including Abbott Laboratories climbed and paint, trucking and railroad companies fell.
Sears announced an online appliance sales pact with Amazon.com, and appliance makers and home improvement stores dropped. But overall the market hardly budged. While stocks have been setting record highs for most of 2017, including Wednesday, the market is having its quietest year in decades.
"There's the belief that the Fed and the ECB are backstopping markets and if something bad were to happen, they would increase accommodation," said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management. "If you throw a bunch of money at a problem, typically risk moves lower and people feel more confidence."
The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped at the finish and lost 0.38 points to 2,473.45. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,611.78. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.96 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record high of 6,390. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 0.58 points to 1,442.35, also a record.
The S&P 500 has only had four moves of 1 percent or greater this year. In a typical year that happens more than 50 times.
Abbott Laboratories, which makes infant formula, drugs and medical devices, gained $1.42, or 2.9 percent, to $50.85 after reporting results that were better than expected. Health care products giant Johnson & Johnson rose $1.36, or 1 percent, to $136.57 and drugmaker AbbVie, which split from Abbott in 2013, added $1.24, or 1.7 percent, to $74.01.
Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries fell after it reported weaker-than-expected sales. PPG said higher raw materials costs hurt its results, and so did unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. Its shares gave up $6.88, or 6.1 percent, to $106.72.
Competitor Sherwin-Williams had a weak second quarter. It also pointed to rising costs as well as lower exterior paint sales. The stock lost $8.94, or 2.5 percent, to $350.78.
Sears said it will begin selling Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa. The owner of the Sears and Kmart chains has closed large numbers of stores in recent years and said in March that it might not be able to stay in business. Its stock jumped 92 cents, or 10.6 percent, to $9.60. Even with Thursday's climb, Sears stock is down 36 percent over the last year.
Home Depot plunged $6.27, or 4.1 percent, to $147.03 as analysts wondered if its appliance sales will be affected. That was Home Depot's biggest loss in a year and a half, and it wiped 43 points off the Dow average. Lowe's fell $4.27, or 5.6 percent, to $72.56 and appliance maker Whirlpool dropped $8.60, or 4.3 percent, to $189.74.
Amazon edged up $1.83 to $1,028.70.
The European Central Bank didn't make any big moves, and ECB President Mario Draghi stressed that it has not set a date for considering any changes to its stimulus policies. Last month Draghi discussed gradual reductions in stimulus as Europe's economy gets stronger, and investors pushed the euro higher and bought long-term bonds. That kind of response could make the ECB's current stimulus less effective, so it wants to moderate market reactions. European government bond yields dropped Thursday.
Utility company Avista surged after it accepted an offer from Hydro One, the largest power transmitter and distributor in Ontario. It will buy Avista for $5.3 billion, or $53 a share, and Avista stock climbed $8.95, or 20.7 percent, to $52.28.
Benchmark U.S. crude lost 33 cents to $46.79 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, sank 40 cents to $49.30 a barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline dipped 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil also fell 1 cent to $1.54 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Bond prices moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.26 percent from 2.27 percent. High-dividend stocks like utilities climbed, as reduced bond yields make those stocks more appealing to investors who want income.
Gold added $3.50 to $1,245.50 an ounce. Silver rose 5 cents to $16.35 an ounce. Copper gained 1 cent to $2.72 a pound.
The dollar edged up to 111.99 yen from 111.78 yen. The euro gained to $1.1626 from $1.1517.
Britain's FTSE 100 index advanced 0.8 percent while the French CAC 40 lost 0.3 percent. The DAX in Germany was little changed. The Nikkei 225 of Japan advanced 0.6 percent and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.5 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent.