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Wall St. flat as trade tensions mute earnings optimism

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were flat on Wednesday after China retaliated to Trump administration’s latest tariffs, escalating trade tensions and muting strong corporate earnings.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

China said it was slapping additional import tariffs of 25 percent on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods, responding in equal measure to the United States’ new round of tariffs.

The S&P 500 index slipped after coming within spitting distance of a record high following a four-day rise.

The energy group .SPNY dropped 0.75 percent and weighed the most on the S&P index as crude oil prices fell on slowing Chinese demand and trade issues.

The industrial index .SPLRCI fell 0.3 percent as a drop in shares of trade-sensitive stocks such as Boeing (BA.N) and Caterpillar (CAT.N) dragged.

However, the healthcare sector got a boost from a 3.6 percent gain in CVS Health (CVS.N) and a 2.8 percent rise in Aetna (AET.N). CVS beat analysts’ estimates for adjusted quarterly profit as it sold more prescription drugs at its stores.

With the second-quarter earnings season winding down, 79 percent of S&P 500 companies have topped estimates. If the beat rate holds, it will be the highest on record, dating back to the first quarter of 1994, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“When we see the earnings growth in 2018, the multiples are reasonable at that record level,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in New York. “We’re in a better place in getting to that record high than we were in January,”

At 9:53 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 38.77 points, or 0.15 percent, at 25,590.14, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 2.83 points, or 0.10 percent, at 2,855.62 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 7.72 points, or 0.10 percent, at 7,875.95.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower.

Walt Disney (DIS.N) fell 1.2 percent and was the biggest decliner on the bluechip Dow after its quarterly profit missed estimates.

Mylan’s 6.8 percent drop was the most on the benchmark S&P 500 after the drugmaker reported quarterly results and said it was actively evaluating a “wide range of alternatives”.

Michael Kors (KORS.N) gained 7.5 percent after the fashion house topped Wall Street forecasts for quarterly profit and revenue and raised its full-year earnings forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.55-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 42 new highs and 27 new lows.

Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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