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Wall Street flat on mixed earnings; all eyes on Fed

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Via Reuters Finance

(Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes treaded water on Wednesday as investors assessed mixed corporate reports in the thick of earnings season, while bracing for a policy decision by the Federal Reserve later in the day.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares of General Electric Co (GE.N) jumped 11.5% after the industrial conglomerate beat quarterly profit estimates and raised its cash forecast for the year.

Yum Brands Inc (YUM.N) shed 9.5% and was among the top decliners on the benchmark index as the KFC owner missed quarterly profit expectations.

The central bank is widely expected to cut interest rates for the third time this year to counter any fallout from a protracted U.S.-China trade war on the domestic economy.

The interest rate sensitive banking sub-sector .SPXBK fell 0.79%. Six of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with losses in the financial sector .SPSY weighing the most.

The Fed decision is due at 2 p.m. ET followed by a news conference from Chair Jerome Powell.

Traders have fully priced in a quarter percentage point rate cut, up from a nearly 40% chance a month earlier. Hopes of a rate cut and optimism around trade talks had pushed the benchmark S&P 500 to record highs in the last two sessions.

“The (rate) cut expected today is largely baked in but the question is if the Fed uses this as an opportunity to pause and assess whether the easing that has taken place has had the desired effect,” said Mike Loewengart, vice president, investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial Corp.

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“All indications are that they have. So it would not be surprising to see the Fed taking a pause from this point,” Loewengart added.

A Commerce Department report showed U.S. economic growth slowed less than expected in the third quarter as declining business investment was offset by resilient consumer spending and a rebound in exports, further allaying financial market fears of a recession.

More than half of the S&P 500 companies have posted quarterly results so far, of which 74.1% have beaten profit estimates. Still, analysts are expecting a 1.6% drop in third-quarter earnings, according to Refinitiv data.

Shares of tech giant Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and social media company Facebook Inc (FB.O) fell ahead of their earnings reports after markets close.

At 11:08 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 6.61 points, or 0.02%, at 27,078.03, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 1.16 points, or 0.04%, at 3,035.73 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 2.94 points, or 0.04%, at 8,273.91.

Among other stocks, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) rose 2% as the company said 15 new tests found no asbestos in a bottle of baby powder that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says tested positive for trace amounts of asbestos. FDA said it stands by its finding.

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Mattel Inc (MAT.O) surged nearly 18% after the U.S. toymaker reported a surprise jump in quarterly revenue on higher demand for newer models of its flagship Barbie brand and dolls based on Korean pop-sensation BTS.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.46-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.60-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

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The S&P index recorded six new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 40 new lows.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva


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