Wall Street flat as upbeat earnings offset trade worries

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were flat on Wednesday as a raft of upbeat earnings reports underlined a solid start to third-quarter results, while concerns over an escalation in the U.S.-China trade war and weak economic indicators lingered.

Wall Street came under pressure after the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, while data on Wednesday showed a fall in U.S. retail sales for the first time in seven months in September.

However, investors cheered positive results from Bank of America (BAC.N), which rose 2.1% after beating analysts’ estimates for third-quarter profit.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc (PNC.N) and Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N) also rose after better-than-expected earnings.

The reports followed strong earnings on Tuesday from JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N), showing consumer confidence remained strong despite recession fears that have led businesses to pull back on spending and borrowing.

“We had a pretty good celebration yesterday after the first busy day of earnings and we got another busy day today, so I think that the path of least resistance is a little bit lower today,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

The S&P 500 bank sector .SPXBK gained 0.3% after hitting a one-year high on Tuesday.

Analysts have forecast the worst quarterly earnings season in nearly three years for S&P 500 companies, as domestic economic growth shows signs of slowing on the fallout from the tariff war with China.

Of the 43 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 86% have topped Wall Street expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Analysts expect market action to turn positive through the session, as optimism from solid earnings reports overshadows mixed political headlines.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

At 11:23 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 13.72 points, or 0.05 percent, at 27,011.08, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 2.34 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,993.34.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 19.22 points, or 0.24 percent, at 8,129.49, coming under pressure from a 3.6% fall in shares of Adobe Inc (ADBE.O) after Citigroup downgraded the Photoshop software maker.

Among other stocks, United Airlines (UAL.O) was up 2.6% after the carrier raised its 2019 profit target.

Drug distributors McKesson (MCK.N), AmerisourceBergen (ABC.N) and Cardinal Health (CAH.N) jumped between 4% and 5.5% after a report that they were in talks with state and local governments to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits for $18 billion.

Investors now await Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and International Business Machines (IBM.N), due to report after markets close on Wednesday.

The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 27 new highs and 46 new lows.

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