Netflix soared, big corporations turned in quarterly results and investors welcomed new companies into the market. There was plenty of news, but major stock indexes finished the day just short of where they started.
Stocks drifted lower at the start of trading, followed oil prices higher in the early afternoon, then flipped back to slight losses in the last hour before the closing bell.
David Lebovitz, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said investors are trying to figure out if the recent run of uninspiring economic news will hit corporate profits. At the same time, big banks and other corporations have turned in better results than Wall Street expected this week.
“There’s a bit of a tug of war right now,” Lebovitz said. “So far, it looks like the earnings season is off to a decent start.”
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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.64, or 0.08 percent, to 2,104.99. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 6.84, or 0.04 percent, to 18,105.77. The Nasdaq composite fell 3.23 points, or 0.06 percent, to 5,007.79.
Netflix said it added 4.9 million subscribers in the first three months of the year, better than any other quarter since the company started streaming video eight years ago. All told, Netflix finished March with 62 million subscribers around the world. Traders drove the company’s stock up $86.59, or 18 percent, to $562.05, the biggest gain in the S&P 500.
The first-quarter earnings season is supposed to be the worst in years, with analysts forecasting a 3 percent drop in earnings compared with the year before. The early results suggest things might not turn out that way. Earnings from more than seven out of 10 companies have come in higher than Wall Street’s estimates, according to S&P Capital IQ.
The economic news out Thursday gave traders little direction. The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid last week inched up for the second week in a row. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, edged up to 282,750, still close to the lowest level in nearly 15 years.
Etsy nearly doubled in its first day of trading, jumping $14, or 88 percent, to $30. The online market for handmade crafts and vintage goods raised $267 million in its initial public offering late Wednesday, selling shares at $16 each.
The price of oil rose for the sixth day in a row on expectations that growth in U.S. supplies is slowing. Benchmark U.S. crude inched up 32 cents to $56.71 a barrel in New York.