Market Update: U.S. Stocks Edge Lower in Tepid Trading; Earnings Up 21% So Far

U.S. stocks finished mixed-to-lower Friday as trade uncertainty outweighed robust corporate earnings from Microsoft, one of the tech industry’s most closely-watched blue-chips.

Stocks Struggle for Direction

All of Wall Street’s major indexes hovered around break-even in afternoon trade, with the S&P 500 Index and Nasdaq eventually settling lower.

The large-cap S&P 500 edged down 0.1% to 2,801.83. Eight of 11 primary sectors led by utilities and consumer shares finished in the red.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 0.1% at 7,820.20.

Dow industrials were virtually unchanged by the close, settling at 25,058.12.

Wall Street’s VIX fear index, which trades on a scale of 1-100, was virtually unchanged at 12.86.

Earnings on Track for Large Gains

Shares of Microsoft Corp (MSFT) rose to all-time highs after the company reported stronger than expected corporate results late Thursday. The tech juggernaut posted per-share earnings of $1.14 on revenue of $30.1 billion during its fiscal fourth-quarter. Analysts on Wall Street called for earnings of $1.08 per share on sales of $29.2 billion.

Guidance was a big factor in the company’s strong performance Friday. Microsoft said it expected first-quarter revenue of between $27.35 billion and $28.05 billion. Analysts had expected a revenue guidance of $27.4 billion.

General Electric Co (GE), a former Dow blue-chip, also reported earnings and revenue that were higher than expected. However, the company’s share price declined sharply Friday.

S&P 500 companies have reported an annual earnings growth rate of 20.8% for the second quarter, according to FactSet. Eighty-three percent of S&P 500 companies have yet to report.

Trump Breaks Precedent

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump scolded the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, a move that put him at odds with a long line of presidents who have refused to get involved in central bank policy.

According to Trump, the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates could hurt disrupt the economy at a time when the recovery engine was gaining momentum.

A White House statement later clarified that the president is not trying to influence Fed policy:

“Of course the President respects the independence of the Fed. As he said he considers the Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell a very good man and that he is not interfering with Fed policy decisions ” the statement said. “The President’s views on interest rates are well known and his comments today are a reiteration of those long held positions, and public comments.”

The U.S. central bank has raised interest rates twice this year and is planning on hiking twice more in 2018.

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi

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