April 8, 2019 / 11:39 AM / in 11 days

S&P 500, Nasdaq edge higher as earnings season looms

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq edged into positive territory on Monday, with gains held in check by falling industrials as investors braced for what analysts now expect to be the first quarter of contracting earnings since 2016.

While the Dow ended the session lower, the S&P 500 extended its winning streak. The benchmark index has now seen eight straight days of gains for the first time since October 2017.

“We’ve been in an expansion for a long time, this is late-cycle mentality,” said Charlie Ripley, senior market strategist for Allianz Investment Management in Minneapolis. “Typically, we see equities perform well toward the end of the cycle.”

First-quarter reporting period begins in earnest, with Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co results due this week.

Analysts expect it to be the first quarter to show a year-on-year decline in S&P 500 earnings since 2016. January-March profits for S&P 500 companies are seen contracting by 2.3% from last year, according to Refinitiv data.

Investors are also grappling with increasing signs of a global economic slowdown.

“On the top of investors’ minds is the slowing growth narrative and whether the economy is headed to recession,” Ripley added. “We’ll get an idea as earnings come in from various sectors.”

Boeing Co was the heaviest drag on the blue-chip Dow, falling 4.4% after the company said it would cut production of its 737 MAX aircraft in response to a worldwide grounding of the jets after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10.

Boeing woes also weighed on the plane maker’s suppliers. Spirit AeroSystems and Triumph Group ended the session down 5.1% and 6.2%, respectively.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 83.97 points, or 0.32%, to 26,341.02, the S&P 500 gained 3.03 points, or 0.10%, to 2,895.77 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.19 points, or 0.19%, to 7,953.88.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, six closed in the black, led by energy which got a boost from rising crude prices.

Utilities and industrials were the biggest percentage losers.

General Electric dropped 5.2% after JPMorgan downgraded the industrial conglomerate’s stock to “underweight” from “neutral.”

New Age Beverage Corp shot up 38.6% on news that it would expand its tea and coffee brand Marley with Walmart Inc.

Snap Inc gained 3.6% following RBC Capital Markets’ upgrade of the stock to “outperform.”

Drugmaker Histogenics Corp soared 56.0% on news it would merge with privately-held Ocugen Inc.

Chipmaker Micron Technology Inc dipped 1.0% after Cowen downgraded the stock to “market perform,” citing expected margin pressures.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.11-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.16-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

Slideshow (4 Images)

The S&P 500 posted 31 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 63 new highs and 29 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.15 billion shares, compared to the 7.28 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Susan Thomas

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