Stocks remained listless in afternoon trading Friday, as Wall Street closed out a quiet week highlighted by a batch of mostly mixed corporate earnings reports.
The major indexes drifted between small gains and losses for much of the day. The S&P 500 was up less than 0.1% as of 3:31 p.m. Eastern. The benchmark index has been wavering over the last several days and is on track for a slight weekly loss.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7 points, or less than 0.1%, to 33,793 and the Nasdaq composite edged up less than 0.1%. Decliners held a slight edge over gainers on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bond yields held relatively steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates and other loans, rose to 3.57% from 3.54% late Thursday.
Banks and technology companies were mostly lower and weighed on the broader market. Truist Financial and KeyCorp, two of the larger regional banks, were among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500.
Health care companies and a range of consumer product makers gained ground, tempering losses elsewhere.
The latest corporate earnings and forecasts have been the big focus for investors this week, as they try to get a better sense of how companies are handling high inflation, a slowing economy and fears about a recession.
“You have a market that’s in waiting mode,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial. “It’s waiting for a sense of what we’re going to hear from companies.”
Investors reviewed a handful of earnings reports Friday. Hospital operator HCA Healthcare rose 3.4% after the company topped estimates for the first quarter and raised its full-year profit forecast. Procter & Gamble, the maker of Charmin toilet paper and other iconic consumer products, rose 3.5% after beating estimates thanks to price increases.
Information technology services company PC Connection fell 4.8% after giving investors a disappointing financial update. Regional bank Regions Financial fell 3.1% after reporting discouraging earnings.
Companies have so far been beating Wall Street forecasts this earnings period. Analysts had forecast this would mark the sharpest drop in S&P 500 earnings per share since the pandemic stunned the economy in 2020. Analysts polled by FactSet expect profits to contract by 6.3% for companies in the S&P 500.
Several big companies are on deck to report earnings next week, giving investors another heavy few days of corporate updates. Coca-Cola reports its latest results on Monday, followed by McDonald’s and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, on Tuesday.
Airplane maker Boeing and Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent, will report results on Wednesday. Investors will get more details on the health of the airline industry when American Airlines and Southwest Airlines report financial results on Thursday, along with internet retail giant Amazon.
The busy week of earnings reports could help provide more direction for investors as recession worries linger, Krosby said.
“There’s a tug of war between what the economic data is saying and the message from equity markets,” she said.
The latest earnings come amid growing worries about the potential for a recession amid the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation. The central bank aggressively raised interest rates through 2022 and into 2023. The rate hikes have weighed on economic growth and while inflation has eased it remains high and is still squeezing consumers.
The Fed will meet again in early May and is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate by another quarter point. Wall Street is betting that the Fed will take a break from raising interest rates after that meeting.
The yield on the two-year Treasury, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, rose to 4.17% from 4.16% late Thursday.
Wall Street is anticipating more economic data next week that could provide greater insight into inflation’s impact and the economy’s path. The reports will included consumer confidence for April, first-quarter gross domestic product and another government update on prices and inflation.
Markets in Europe ended with small gains Friday, while exchanges in Asia declined overnight.