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Stocks close little changed amid earnings, Trump's trade comments

CNBC logo CNBC 7/20/2018 Fred Imbert, John Melloy and Silvia Amaro
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Stocks ended little changed Friday as traders weighed strong quarterly results from some of the largest U.S. companies with comments made by President Donald Trump about trade with China. 

The three major indexes closed just below the flatline. 

Microsoft reported better-than-expected earnings Thursday after the close and issued strong revenue guidance. The company's stock rose about 2.26 percent and hit a record. Honeywell shares also rose 2.1 percent on stronger-than-expected earnings and revenue. 

So far, about 16.4 percent of S&P 500 companies have released their latest quarterly results, with 83 percent of them topping analyst expectations, according to FactSet. Wall Street has high expectations for this earnings season, with analysts expecting earnings growth of 20 percent, FactSet said. 

"There have been some individual surprises, but it's still looking like we're going to get year-over-year growth in the neighborhood of 20 percent," said Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research.

The reports come after Trump said he is ready to put tariffs on every Chinese good coming to the U.S. if necessary.

"I'm ready to go to 500," the president told CNBC's Joe Kernen in a "Squawk Box" interview.

"That's going to reignite the trade-war fears," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities. "That can only complicate things in the market."

Trump also said the strong gains in the stock market since his election give him the opportunity to wage a trade war, noting: "We're playing with the bank's money." 

The S&P 500 was up 31 percent since Trump's win in 2016 through Thursday. The market's gain has slowed this year as the Trump administration implemented new tariffs on countries with the S&P 500 up 4.9 percent for 2018 through Thursday. The tariffs have raised concern in the market about a potential slowdown in global economic growth. 

The Trump administration has already slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods coming from China, to which the Chinese have retaliated with charges of their own. Trump had also previously threatened to put levies on $200 billion worth in goods.

Stock futures fell sharply after Trump's comments on the Fed and China on Friday, but quickly regained their footing. 

"This is a bit like the ping-pong ball effect. The biggest bounce on the table is the first one, then the second one and sow on until the bounces are so small that people don't care anymore," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research. "But still, it's never good to mess with global trade." 

Trump also went after the Federal Reserve for a second straight day, tweeting: "The United States should not be penalized because we are doing so well. Tightening now hurts all that we have done. The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates - Really?" 

The U.S. dollar fell after the tweet, trading down 0.6 percent against a basket of six other currencies. Trump's told CNBC in the same he was not thrilled about the Fed raising rates.


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