Stocks wobble as investors gauge earnings, economy

Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses Thursday as investors continue to focus on company earnings reports and the economic recovery.

The S&P 500 was up less than 0.1% as of 11:38 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 43 points, or 0.1%, to 34,088 and the Nasdaq was up 0.3%. The S&P 500 closed higher Wednesday, ending a two-day slide, but it’s still down for the week.

Earnings are a key focus for investors as the bulk of companies in the S&P 500 spend the next few weeks reporting their financial results. Wall Street is hoping to get a better sense of just how much companies in various sectors are benefiting from the economic recovery. They are also listening for clues on prospects for the recovery to continue as vaccine distribution rolls on and people try to return to some semblance of normal.

AT&T rose 4.4% after reporting results that beat expectations, helped by higher wireless phone charges as well as the success of its streaming service HBOMax. Equifax also rose after reporting strong results.

Union Pacific fell 1.7% after the railroad operator reported a 9% drop in profit.

The broader market has had a choppy week of ups and downs as Wall Street digests earnings and tries to gauge how much and how quickly the U.S. and global economy will recover through 2021.

“It’s not a clear time in the market,” said Jay Hatfield, CEO and portfolio manager at Infrastructure Capital Advisors. “You’re in a trading range until you get some more clarity on the global recovery.”

The U.S. is showing solid signs of recovery, while Europe and other parts of the world lag behind. That will likely change as soon as more vaccines are distributed internationally, Hatfield said.

Credit Suisse dropped 2.6% after the Swiss bank announced it would issue more stock to help it recover from the losses it suffered because of the implosion of a hedge fund earlier this year. Credit Suisse had been a primary backer of Archegos Capital Management, which collapsed last month after several of its bets went sour.

Investors will be looking to Intel after the closing bell when the chip giant reports its quarterly results.

Investors got a bit of good news on the economy when the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing for unemployment fell again last week. Unemployment claims were 547,000, the lowest point since the pandemic struck and an encouraging sign that layoffs are slowing.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.58% from 1.56% late Wednesday.