Stocks Pare Gains as Investors Look for Fresh Catalysts

(Reuters) -
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A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

U.S. stocks pared gains in early afternoon trading on Thursday as investors sought fresh triggers in the run up to the first-quarter earnings.

All the three major indexes were also weighed down by a 0.4 percent drop in Apple’s shares to $143.54.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer suggested there could be a “pause” in the stock after Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 flagship device received positive reviews.

Economic data earlier in the day showed that the domestic economy grew at a faster pace in the fourth quarter than previously estimated. Gross domestic product increased 2.1 percent, compared with the previously reported 1.9 percent, the Commerce Department said.

Stocks have been range-bound in the past few days after hitting a series of record highs, powered by what investors see as President Donald Trump’s pro-growth agenda.

That rally stalled recently as investors assessed the impact of Republicans’ failure to pass a health-care bill on tax reform and the rest of President Trump’s economic agenda.

“We expect the rally to fade today, given intraday overbought conditions and a lack of positive momentum,” said Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist at brokerage BTIG.

The rapid climb in equities has raised concerns regarding valuations, with the S&P 500 trading at nearly 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months against its long-term average of 15 times.

The market will be looking at quarterly earnings to see if the lofty valuations can be supported. First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“The market has been quiet in the past few days and are looking forward to the first-quarter earnings in the absence of any major economic data,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

At 12:50 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24.98 points, or 0.12 percent, at 20,684.3.

The S&P 500 was up 2.85 points, or 0.12 percent, at 2,363.98.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 4.07 points, or 0.07 percent, at 5,901.61.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the financial index’s 0.88 percent rise leading the advancers.

Lululemon Athletica plunged as much as 23.4 percent to a more than one-year low of $50.80 after the Canadian yoga and leisure apparel retailer said first-quarter comparable sales were expected to fall. The stock was among the biggest drags on the S&P.

ConocoPhillips rose 7.2 percent to $49.24 after the company said it agreed to sell oil sands and western Canadian natural gas assets to Cenovus Energy. Cenovus was down 12.2 percent at $11.48.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,593 to 1,250. On the Nasdaq, 1,494 issues rose and 1,278 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 20 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 78 new highs and 16 new lows.