By Sruthi Shankar
(Reuters) – U.S. stocks treaded water on Thursday, as gains in bank shares ahead of earnings were countered by growth worries following warnings from major central banks.
The S&P financial index rose 0.7%, while the banking sector was up 0.9%.
First-quarter earnings begin in earnest on Friday, with JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:) & Co reporting quarterly results.
Earnings of bank are expected to grow 2.3%, well below 8.2% estimated six months ago, according to Refinitiv data. The steep drop in the estimate comes in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s dovish tilt and the subsequent drop in 10-year Treasury yields.
“We can’t seem to really break out to new record highs but we’re not falling either, and I think earnings will be a key factor in deciding it,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
The S&P 500 is holding at a six-month high, trading 1.6% below its record hit in late September.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March meeting on Wednesday showed that it was likely to leave interest rates unchanged this year given risks to the U.S. economy from the slowdown and uncertainty over trade policies and financial conditions.
The European Central Bank also maintained its loose policy stance, raising the prospect of more support being pumped into the struggling euro zone economy.
Concerns about trade and financial conditions have pushed central banks to take a dovish stance, broadly supporting appetite for risk assets.
“The market is relieved about the Fed not acting on interest rates and is now looking forward to the earnings season which is not going to be a good one in comparison,” Cardillo added.
Investors shrugged off inflation data, after a Labor Department report showed U.S. producer prices increased by the most in five months in March, but underlying producer prices remained soft.
At 10:04 a.m. EDT the was up 38.44 points, or 0.15%, at 26,195.60, the S&P 500 was up 2.76 points, or 0.10%, at 2,890.97 and the was down 9.03 points, or 0.11%, at 7,955.21.
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, boosted by financial stocks.
Industrial stocks got a boost from Fastenal (NASDAQ:) Co’s 4.2% rise after the industrial supplier reported first-quarter profit that beat estimates.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (NASDAQ:) shares tumbled 10.2% after the home furnishing retailer forecast weak current-quarter profit.
Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc shares fell 2.9% after the electric carmaker and Panasonic Corp said they were holding off on further investment in Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners and a 1.46-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 41 new highs and 12 new lows.
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