* McDonald’s pulls Dow lower; Apple helps Nasdaq tread water
* Netflix, Texas Instruments to report after the close
* Healthcare worst performing S&P sector
* Solar companies soar
* Indexes: Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
By Julia Edwards
NEW YORK, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Dow slipped on Monday as a clutch of lackluster earnings reports from McDonald’s and others fed concerns that equity valuations were getting stretched after the S&P index’s run to record highs last week.
Investors also showed a reluctance to make aggressive bets ahead of Tuesday’s release of U.S. payrolls data for September, which was delayed by the recent government shutdown.
The Dow was lower after McDonald’s Corp fell following a weak fourth-quarter outlook. A rally in Apple Inc shares after a brokerage ratings upgrade helped the Nasdaq hold near the unchanged mark.
Though only a small percentage of S&P 500 stocks have reported earnings thus far, the season has been mixed, with revenue growth especially a concern. Still, profits have largely risen and many bellwether companies have topped expectations.
“We are going into earnings season and the market is just starting to digest the things that have come into play. The numbers have actually been decent, but you are just getting started,” said Thomas Nyheim, vice president and portfolio manager at Christiana Trust in Greenville, Delaware.
“That’s why there is not that much movement in the market, just anticipation.”
With 21 percent of S&P companies having reported, 61.5 percent have topped profit expectations, a rate slightly above the historical average. But only 52 percent have topped expectations on revenue, below the historical average of 61 percent.
The S&P 500 on Friday capped its biggest weekly gain in three months on stronger-than-expected earnings from Google and Morgan Stanley, as well as a deal in Washington temporarily resolving a political deadlock over the budget and raising the debt-ceiling. The S&P ended at a record high.
S&P sectors were mixed, with healthcare stocks making the biggest decline, down 0.6 percent. Nyheim, who manages investments in health care stocks, said the sector will be unpredictable until the effects of President Obama’s health care law play out.
“The push for healthcare is going to be greater as more people age and come online. We just don’t know how it’s going to affect the bottom line,” said Nyheim.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 15.81 points, or 0.10 percent, at 15,383.84. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 1.65 points, or 0.09 percent, at 1,742.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.99 points, or 0.05 percent, at 3,916.27.
Apple boosted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq after Societe Generale lifted its price target on the stock to $575 from $500 and advised clients to buy shares. The stock rose 2.5 percent to $521.83 and was the largest winner on the Nasdaq, adding 7.8 points to the index.
McDonald’s fell 0.8 percent to $94.42 after it reported revenue that missed estimates and warned global October sales could be relatively flat.
More than 25 percent of the S&P 500 components are due to report this week, with Texas Instruments and Netflix among the stocks to report after Monday’s market closes.
While Netflix shares have soared this year, few short sellers are expecting the stock to pull back following its results, a sign of how the Federal Reserve’s stimulus program has made successful negative bets by short sellers hard to execute.
Hasbro Inc jumped 5.0 percent to a new all-time high as both earnings and sales topped expectations.
Solar power companies were among the strongest on Monday, with First Solar Inc up 9.5 percent to $54.76 as the S&P’s top percentage gainer. Trina Solar rose 4.6 percent to $17.32 while SolarCity Corp gained 2.1 percent to $60.60.
JPMorgan Chase & Co reached a tentative $13 billion deal with the U.S. government to settle investigations into bad mortgage loans sold to investors by JPMorgan and the banks it bought during the financial crisis. Shares were down 0.1 pct at $54.24.