Wall Street ends flat; Alphabet and Microsoft tumble

(Reuters) - Wall Street finished flat on Friday after disappointing quarterly reports from Microsoft and Alphabet slammed tech stocks, while a surge in oil prices lifted energy shares.

The S&P technology sector dropped 1.9 percent, its worst decline since early February, with Facebook down 2.5 percent and Intel falling 1.03 percent.

Microsoft dropped 7.17 percent, contributing the biggest drag to the S&P 500, and Google-parent Alphabet lost 5.41 percent as investors punished both companies for missing profit and revenue estimates. It was Alphabet’s worst day since 2012.

Helped by a softer dollar and a recovery in oil prices, the S&P 500 has rebounded from a steep selloff earlier this year and is only about 2 percent short of last May’s record high.

Wall Street has rock-bottom expectations as companies post their first-quarter results over the next few weeks, with S&P 500 companies on average seen reporting a 7.1-percent fall in profit, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Crude rose over 1 percent on signs of strong U.S. gasoline consumption, declining production around the world and oilfield outages.

Oil prices have moved in lockstep with U.S. stocks for several months and some investors expected more gains next week.

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So far, 77 percent of first-quarter earnings have exceeded expectations, which is superior to the 63-percent beat rate in a typical quarter.

“What’s driving the market right now is earnings and oil,” said Thomas Wilson, Managing Director of Wealth Advisory at Brinker Capital.

“If earnings results come in above the very low bar of expectations that are out there, and you combine that with a continued rising price of oil, that should equate to an upward trend in the market next week.”

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 0.12 percent to end at 18,003.75 points, while the S&P 500 finished flat at 2,091.58.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.8 percent to 4,906.23, reflecting the selloff in tech shares.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors rose, with energy up 1.33 percent.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in lower Manhattan in, New York, U.S., April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

For the week, the Dow added 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.6 percent.

Also hurting sentiment during Friday’s session, Starbucks fell 4.88 percent after missing sales expectations, while Visa lost 2.08 percent after it cut full-year revenue forecast.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,127 to 875. On the Nasdaq, 1,758 issues rose and 1,049 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 11 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 21 new lows.

About 7.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 6.8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski