US Stocks Edge Down as DuPont, J&J Report Earnings
U.S. stocks wavered between small gains and losses Tuesday as big companies reported their fourth-quarter financial results.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell four points to 13,645 as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two to 1,484. The Nasdaq composite average dropped five to 3,129.
Among the Dow components reporting Tuesday, chemical and bioscience company DuPont reported a sharp drop in income on weakness in its electronics, communications and other businesses, but the results still beat analysts' forecasts and DuPont's stock rose 43 cents to $47.42.
Johnson & Johnson said higher sales helped boost its profit from a year ago, when results were weighed down by a slew of one-time charges. However, the company's 2013 profit forecast fell short of analysts' estimates. J&J dropped 62 cents to $73.99.
A third member of the Dow 30, property and casualty insurer Travelers Cos., led the Dow higher after it said core income categories like investments and premiums written rose in the fourth quarter. Net income fell because of costs related to Superstorm Sandy. The stock shot up $2.67, or 3.5 percent, to $78.98, after hitting an all-time closing high of $76.31 on Friday.
The market was closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Another company hit by Superstorm Sandy was Delta Air Lines, which said its fourth-quarter profit was nearly wiped out after it was forced to cancel more than 20,000 flights. The storm hit Delta harder than other airlines because it slowed operations at Delta's new oil refinery near Philadelphia. Delta fell 2 cents to $13.59.
Tech behemoths IBM and Google are set to announce their earnings results after the market closes. Tech companies' results are being watched closely because many of them have warned about a weak fourth quarter.
Railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern also announce after the close. Rail companies are seen as a bellwether for the broader economy because their results track the demand for transportation of materials used in manufacturing and goods sold to consumers and businesses.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged up to 1.86 percent from 1.84 percent.
Asian indexes closed mixed after the Bank of Japan announced a new round of bond purchases that many observers thought was too weak to have much effect on the economy. The BOJ set a 2 percent inflation target and announced open-ended asset purchases starting in 2014.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.4 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent. China's Shenzhen average fell 1.5 percent.
European stocks also were mixed. Germany's DAX was down 0.7 percent despite strong results from an investor confidence survey in that country. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat; France's CAC 40 fell 0.4 percent.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for February delivery was down 3 cents to $95.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.