The Dow Jones was weighed down by declines in Walt Disney Co and UnitedHealth Group Inc’s shares track the results of its rivals in their respective sectors.
Major stock indexes were largely flat during the early stages of a first-quarter earnings season that investors expect to post tepid results.
“Company results are viewed as largely company-specific news versus market news,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley Wealth. “If that keeps us relatively calm and unchanged for now, while the sample of journalists is still quite small, I think that’s a positive.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79.62 points, or 0.23%, to 33,897.01; the S&P 500 fell 0.35 points, or 0.01%, to 4,154.52; and the Nasdaq Compound added 3.81 points, or 0.03%, to 12,157.23.
The defensive group Utilities gained the most among the S&P 500 sectors, up 0.8%.
The CBOE Volatility Index, also known as the Wall Street Fear Gauge, fell to its lowest level since November 2021 during the session. Investors are looking for signs in corporate earnings that inflation could push up costs or hurt consumer spending, amid fears the economy is on the verge of a slowdown.
Overall, S&P 500 companies are expected to post a 4.8% drop in first-quarter earnings from the year-ago period, according to Refinitiv IBES.
“We seem stuck in that range, with those people thinking there’s going to be a recession coming and those people thinking there’s going to be a soft landing,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments.
Shares of Netflix Inc fell 3.2% after the video streaming pioneer offered a softer-than-expected forecast. Shares of streaming rival Disney fell 2.2%.
Shares of Tesla Inc fell 2% after the electric vehicle maker’s sixth U.S. price cut this year. Tesla shares slid further in early aftermarket trading on Wednesday following the company’s quarterly report.
Shares of Elevance Health Inc fell 5.3% after the insurer’s strong quarterly earnings failed to assuage investor concerns over regulatory hits to the company’s government-backed insurance business. UnitedHealth shares fell 3.6%.
Elsewhere in the healthcare sector, shares of Abbott Laboratories jumped 7.8% after the medical device maker said most delayed elective medical procedures had resumed globally three years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Shares of Intuitive Surgical soared 10.9% after its quarterly revenue and profit beat estimates.
Shares of Western Alliance Bancorp jumped 24.1% after the company posted better-than-expected earnings, helping to push the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF up 3.9%.
Regional banks have been in the spotlight after the Silicon Valley Bank bankruptcy last month raised concerns about systemic risks.
Falling issues outnumbered advances on the NYSE by a ratio of 1.28 to 1; on the Nasdaq, a ratio of 1.11 to 1 favored the decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 16 new 52-week highs and a new low; THE Nasdaq Composite recorded 59 new highs and 123 new lows.
About 10 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, compared to the daily average of 10.6 billion over the past 20 sessions.