US STOCKS-Wall Street flat after durable goods; Boeing supports

Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:50am EDT

* Durable goods data shows biggest drop in seven months

* P&G slips, Boeing gains after earnings

* Indexes: Dow off 0.02 pct, S&P up 0.06 pct, Nasdaq off 0.05 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, after a disappointing durable goods report tempered recent enthusiasm over a relatively robust earnings season.

Economic data showed orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods slumped 5.7 percent in March, the biggest drop in seven months, and far below expectations calling for a decline of 2.8 percent.

"It's basically just confirming what we've seen in the economic numbers so far this month, that basically, things weren't quite as good as we thought at the end of the first quarter," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

"I don't expect there to be a massive selloff today but (the data) says the economy is having to work pretty hard to make progress."

But support for the Dow and S&P was provided Boeing Co , which jumped 4.2 percent to $91.92 as the top boost for each index after the aerospace giant reported first-quarter earnings.

Also offsetting results from Boeing were declines in Procter and Gamble Co, which lost 4.2 percent to $78.47 after reporting third-quarter results and issuing a profit outlook for the current quarter that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The S&P consumer staples index shed 0.5 percent.

Corning Inc gained 4 percent to $13.66 after the specialty glass maker's first-quarter profit beat analysts' estimates, helped by strong demand for its scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass used in smartphones and tablets.

According to Thomson Reuters data, 45 companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to report results Wednesday, including Dow component Aflac Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Citrix Systems Inc after the close.

Apple Inc shares lost 0.8 percent to $402.95 after the iPad maker bowed Tuesday to investors' demands to share more of its $145 billion cash pile, while posting its first quarterly profit decline in more than a decade.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 2.30 points, or 0.02 percent, to 14,717.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 1.00 points, or 0.06 percent, to 1,579.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 1.57 points, or 0.05 percent, to 3,267.76.

Earnings season has been largely positive, with more than 68.9 percent of S&P 500 companies that have reported results so far beating expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday morning. Since 1994, 63 percent have surpassed estimates on average, while the beat rate is 67 percent for the past four quarters.

Analysts see earnings growth of 2.3 percent this quarter, up from expectations of 1.5 percent at the start of the month.

In merger news, OPKO Health Inc will buy Israel-based biopharmaceutical company Prolor Biotech Inc in an all-stock deal valued at $480 million to expand its portfolio of specialty drugs. OPKO shares dipped 1.6 percent to $6.95 while Prolor jumped 8.2 percent to $6.31.