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Stocks close below records as Caterpillar, AT&T fall on earnings

CNBC logo CNBC 4/24/2019 Fred Imbert

Stocks slipped from record levels Wednesday as Wall Street assessed a mixed batch of corporate earnings.

The Nasdaq ended the day down more than 0.2% after hitting an intraday record. The S&P 500 also dipped 0.2% as the energy and communication sectors underperformed. The Dow closed 59 points lower.

Caterpillar shares fell nearly 3% despite the company posting better-than-expected quarterly earnings. The industrial giant’s CFO warned of a possible slowdown in its China business, overshadowing Caterpillar’s strong report.

AT&T fell more than 4% after posting first-quarter revenue numbers that disappointed investors. The company’s revenue was dragged down by weak sales in its WarnerMedia division.

Domino’s Pizza, meanwhile, rose 4.9% on stronger-than-forecast quarterly results. Shares of eBay also gained 5% on earnings that topped expectations.

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq posted record closing highs in the previous session, boosted by strong corporate earnings results from companies like United Technologies, Coca-Cola and Twitter on Tuesday.

The indexes reached records less than six months after a massive drop in December, which led to Wall Street’s worst year since the financial crisis. But a pivot by the Federal Reserve in monetary policy away from higher rates and the cooling of trade tensions between China and the U.S. helped stocks rally from those lows.

Technology led the comeback, rising more than 36% since Christmas Eve. Xerox is the best-performing stock in the sector since then, rising about 80%.

“Right now, it feels like there’s some FOMO [fear of missing out] going on,” said Christian Fromhertz, the CEO of The Tribeca Trade Group. “That’s what’s pushing us up in this last leg.”

“I think we’re going to see a consolidation at some point,” he said. “It’s not to say we need a major pullback. I just think we need to consolidate the gains a little bit. That may happen with what comes out with some of the bigger tech names.”

Facebook and Microsoft are among the companies set to report later on Wednesday, while Amazon is scheduled to release its results on Thursday.

Nearly 130 S&P 500 companies reported calendar first-quarter earnings through Tuesday morning. Of those companies, 78% have reported better-than-forecast profits, according to Refinitiv.

“If there’s an earnings recession out there, it’s hard to see in the latest batch of earnings reports,” Ed Yardeni, the president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, wrote in a note.

Investors are closely watching this corporate earnings season amid fears of contracting profits. Analysts polled by FactSet came into the season expecting a 4.2% decline in S&P 500 earnings. The earnings growth rate of the companies that have reported so far is nearly 2.4%, according to FactSet.

CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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