New York - The S&P 500 closed flat on Wednesday, with a four-day rally in the index just barely coming to an end after Procter & Gamble cut its outlook, though some positive earnings limited the decline and eased concerns that valuations had become stretched.
The Nasdaq rose for a fifth straight session, boosted by strong results at TripAdvisor, while the Dow felt the pressure from P&G and ended the day slightly lower.
The S&P 500 gained 3.9 percent over the past four sessions, its best four-day performance in 13 months. The move put it about 1.6 percent below its record closing high of 1,848.38 set on January 15.
“There isn't a big discount to the market since valuations remain at or approaching fair value, but we don't see it as overly expensive since earnings are growing steadily,” said Eric Teal, chief investment officer of First Citizens Bancshares in Raleigh, North Carolina. “We're seeing a better tone in the market after a rough start to the month.”
The recent advance came after Wall Street's sharpest drop in more than a year, with a selloff triggered by turmoil in emerging markets. Those issues still play into markets, with Procter & Gamble saying its lower full-year earnings and sales outlook was related to the devaluation of currencies in various developing markets.
Shares of P&G lost 1.7 percent to close at $77.49.
“Stocks that are closely tied to consumer spending patterns will see some volatility ahead,” said Teal, who helps oversee $3.5 billion in assets.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 30.83 points, or 0.19 percent, to end at 15,963.94. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost just 0.49 of a point, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 1,819.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 10.24 points, or 0.24 percent, to close at 4,201.29.
In other earnings news, TripAdvisor was the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer, climbing 7.2 percent to $90.27 a day after the travel website company reported revenue that beat expectations.
Owens Corning shares jumped 8.7 percent to $43.20 after the building products maker reported adjusted fourth-quarter profits that more than tripled, driven by a rebound in the US housing market.
Of 365 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported earnings through Wednesday morning, 67.7 percent have beaten profit expectations, above the long-term average of 63 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. More than 66 percent have beaten revenue forecasts, above the historical average of 61 percent.
Still, there are signs of weakness, with 4.8 companies warning about their first-quarter results for every one with positive guidance, according to Thomson Reuters data.
After the market closed, Cisco Systems shares fell 4.2 percent to $21.88 after the network equipment maker reported a drop in revenue, though the decline was less than expected.
Whole Foods Market Inc shares lost 6.4 percent to $51.90 after the largest US natural and organic grocery chain cut its full-year sales and profit view. NetApp shares fell 3.7 percent in extended-hours trading following the company's release of quarterly results after the market closed.
Amazon.com fell 3.5 percent to $349.25 after UBS downgraded the stock of the world's largest online retailer to “neutral”, while the shares of both Lorillard and Intuit slumped after their results.
Shares of tobacco company Lorillard fell 5 percent to $47.47. The stock of mobile payment company Intuit dropped 4.1 percent to $69.72.
AMCOL International surged 12.3 percent to $41.24 after the US minerals and materials group agreed to be acquired by France's Imerys for about $1.6 billion, including debt.
About 55 percent of the stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed higher on the day, while about 51.5 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares ended in positive territory.
About 5.71 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data. - Reuters