Dow, S&P fall as earnings season picks up; tech boosts Nasdaq

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow fell in choppy trading on Monday as energy and financial stocks lost ground and caution grew ahead of a slew of earnings reports this week.

Technology sector gains limited losses on the S&P 500 and helped to lift the Nasdaq. The beaten-down S&P technology index was up 0.8 percent.

The S&P 500 energy index sank 1.1 percent after Halliburton warned that fourth-quarter earnings would miss estimates amid ongoing weakness in the North American hydraulic fracturing market.

Halliburton fell 3 percent and rival oilfield services provider Schlumberger was down 2.9 percent.

“It’s a big earnings week,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

“That’s causing some trepidation for investors. We’ve seen decent results but not universally, and there are some negative issues companies have talked about.”

While profits of S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 21.9 percent in the third quarter, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv, many investors are focusing on the outlook for future growth due to concerns over trade, rising costs and other factors.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

Shares of and Alphabet, both due to report results this week, rose on Monday.

The Dow swung between gains and losses of more than 100 points early in the session, highlighting the volatility in U.S. equities as they struggle to recover from a recent sell-off even as the earnings season gathers steam.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 126.93 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,317.41, the S&P 500 lost 11.9 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,755.88 and the Nasdaq Composite added 19.60 points, or 0.26 percent, to 7,468.63.

The S&P 500 remained below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level.

Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc, an investment advisory firm in Toledo, Ohio, thinks the market will be more volatile and investors will lean toward being more cautious in the near term, at least ahead of the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm elections.

“People are looking at the negatives and saying that it’s a situation where there are more headwinds. At least until the midterms, it’s going to be difficult to make any significant progress on the upside. The drift will be lower,” he said.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

Finiancial stocks fell 2.1 percent and were the biggest drag on the S&P 500. The U.S. Treasury yield curve flattened to its lowest level in more than two weeks.

Early in the session, a surge in China stocks and positive sentiment across Europe on Moody’s decision to keep Italy’s sovereign rating outlook stable helped to support stocks.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.50-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.34-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 4 new 52-week highs and 50 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 19 new highs and 286 new lows.

About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges. That compares with the 7.8 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.

Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler