Stocks turn lower as banks slide, but indexes set for weekly gains – MarketWatch

U.S. stocks fell on Friday, with major indexes losing an early gain as the first reads on the earnings season failed to excite, painting a mixed picture about the strength of American corporations at a time of heavy uncertainty.

In focus were results from three major banks. While the results largely came in ahead of forecasts, starting the first-quarter reporting season on a positive note, the stocks fell and pushed the overall financial sector lower.

Need to know: This jumpy stock market may have found a bottom—here’s why

What are the main benchmarks doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -0.18%

 fell 63 points, or 0.3%, to 24,417. The S&P 500

SPX, -0.07%

 fell 0.3% to 2,657. The Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, -0.22%

 slipped 30 points, or 0.4%, to 7,109.

Financials were the biggest declining sector of the day, off 0.5%. Despite that, the day’s activity was largely positive, with nine of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors higher on the day.

Major indexes have trended to the upside recently, rising in six of the past eight sessions, not including Friday. The Dow is up 2.3% for the week while the S&P is up 2.3% and the Nasdaq has risen 3.2%.

Check out: After 10 fat years for stock investors, a lean decade is looming

And see: Geopolitical risk matters again—here’s what it means for the markets

What’s driving markets

Earnings could prove to be a bright spot for investors, who have been looking for fundamental news to trade on, as opposed to uncertainties surrounding U.S. politics and trade with China. Potential U.S. military action against the Syrian government has also contributed to caution of late, though the market impact from a strike is expected to be minimal.

The first-quarter earnings season is expected to be strong, with companies posting their strongest rates of both earnings and revenue growth in years. While the high expectations could increase the likelihood of disappointments, strong results could assuage concerns that market valuations aren’t justified by economic activity, and they could limit volatility if stocks move on their own fundamentals, as opposed to macroeconomic trends, as has recently been the case.

Read: The ‘stock picker’s market’ has gone up in smoke

Political issues will likely remain in focus, despite the ramp-up of earnings.

The White House plans to step up pressure on China to make trade concessions, via a plan for fresh tariffs and a threat to block Chinese technology investments in the U.S., according to a report. Details of which Chinese products are on the hit-list of $100 billion in tariffs could be revealed as soon as next week. For its part, China is considering lining up allies, such as Europe, against the U.S.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has directed senior aides to look into the possibility of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could pose a further challenge to China. The trade imbalance between the world’s two biggest economies grew, as China posted a sharp jump in its trade surplus with the U.S. That rise came even as China logged its first overall monthly trade deficit in 13 months.

Read: Head of the world’s largest asset management firm says this is key for stock-market investors

Which stocks look like key movers?

Bank stocks were in focus following results from a trio of major firms.


JPM, -2.40%

fell 2% despite first-quarter earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street estimates.

Citigroup Inc.

C, -2.29%

 reported earnings that topped consensus forecasts, and revenue that was in line with expectations. The stock lost 2.3%. Wells Fargo

WFC, -3.12%

 also reported better-than-expected earnings, though revenue declined year-over-year. The stock fell 3.4%.

Read: Expect a strong first quarter for bank earnings, but more questions lie ahead

Zillow Group Inc.

Z, -8.77%

 shares fell 9%. The real estate listings company said Thursday it will get into the business of buying and flipping homes, which is considered by some to be high risk.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

SEAS, +3.73%

 late Thursday disclosed notice of possible civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The stock rose 1.3%. Inc.

AMZN, -0.27%

 shares rose 0.1%. Trump issued a surprise executive order Thursday night calling for look at the U.S. Postal Service’s finances and operations, along with its position in the package delivery industry. Trump has blamed Amazon in recent weeks for the woes of the USPS and has said that the company isn’t paying enough tax, charges experts have disputed.

What are analysts saying?

“The bank earnings looked decent, but they weren’t spectacular, and they certainly weren’t great enough to push the stocks over important technical resistance,” said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Phoenix Financial Services, who noted that losses in both Citigroup and JPMorgan accelerated after they failed to hold above their 50-day moving averages.

“Everyone knows this season will be good in terms of growth, but investor demand has been lackluster, with low volume on both up days and down days. If a really good season doesn’t act as a catalyst for stocks to move higher, that’s going to be a red flag going forward.”

Read: What traders want to see to feel confident momentum has shifted to the upside

What is on the economic docket?

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index in April fell to a reading of 97.8, down from 101.4 in March. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a reading of 101. Job openings in the U.S. fell slightly in February from a near record at the start of the year.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said the Federal Reserve may have to tighten monetary policy by more than is currently reflected in the median forecast for the federal-funds rate. The Fed reducing its balance sheet has been cited as one of the primary risks facing markets.

Read: Why the Fed is ‘Public Enemy No.1’ for the stock market

Read: Fed must be on its toes after March CPI data show inflation warming up

What are other markets doing?

Asian stocks had a mixed session, while European stocks

SXXP, +0.10%

moved higher, on track for a third-straight week of gains.

Gold futures

GCM8, +0.48%

GCM8, +0.48%

inched lower, while the ICE U.S. Dollar Index

DXY, +0.06%

held steady.

Oil prices

CLK8, +0.66%

slipped, but hovered at fresh three-year highs.

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