“You see different numbers and different drivers,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist for LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We’ve had some mixed messages from financials and health care.”
With reporting season in full swing, analysts now expect first quarter S&P 500 profits to have dropped 1.8 per cent year-on-year, according to Refinitiv data. While a solid improvement over recent estimates, it would still mark the first earnings decline since 2016.
Of the 42 S&P 500 companies that have posted thus far, 81 per cent have beaten consensus, compared with the 65 per cent average beat rate going back to 1994.
Johnson & Johnson came in above analyst estimates, mostly attributable to sales growth at its pharmaceuticals unit, driving the stock 1.1 per cent higher.
But UnitedHealth Group, which also reported a better-than-anticipated first- quarter profit and hiked its 2019 earnings forecast, fell 4.0 per cent, likely due to regulatory worries. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow.
Rivals Anthem and Cigna also slid, dropping 6.8 per cent and 7.8 per cent, respectively.
The S&P 500 Healthcare Index closed down 2.0 per cent
The second biggest US bank by assets, Bank of America missed revenue expectations but its profit beat forecasts due to cost cutting and loan increases. Its shares edged up 0.1 per cent.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, gained 3.2 per cent after blowing past Street expectations and raking in $US65 billion in new investor cash in the first quarter.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 67.89 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 26,452.66; the S&P 500 gained 1.48 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 2,907.06; and the Nasdaq Composite added 24.21 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 8,000.23.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, seven