NEW YORK – U.S stocks are wavering between small gains and losses in early trading on Wall Street Thursday. Energy and health care companies are gaining, but basic materials companies are lower. Investors are focused on second-quarter results from large companies like American Express and Philip Morris as well as the latest commentary from the European Central bank, which left its key interest rate unchanged. Major stock indexes closed at record highs a day earlier.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was little changed at 2,473 as of 10:15 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 26 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,616. The Nasdaq composite fell 5 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,379. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,433.
HEALTHY, WEALTHY: Abbott Laboratories, which makes infant formula, drugs and medical devices, gained $1.11, or 2.2 percent, to $50.54 after reporting results that were better than expected. Health care products giant Johnson & Johnson rose 87 cents to $136.08 and Merck climbed 51 cents to $63.13. Drugmaker AbbVie, which split from Abbott in 2013, added 83 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $73.60.
NOT PAINTING THE TOWN RED: Paint and coatings maker Sherwin-Williams slumped after its second-quarter profit and sales fell short of analysts’ projections. The company said it wants to improve retail sales of architectural paints and raise prices for industrial coatings products to make up for rising costs. The stock lost $18.17, or 5.1 percent, to $341.55.
Competitor PPG Industries also fell after it reported weaker-than-expected sales. Like Sherwin-Williams, PPG said higher raw materials costs hurt its results, and so did unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. Its shares gave up $6.40, or 5.6 percent, to $107.20.
CENTRAL BANKS: The European Central Bank will continue to buy bonds and isn’t cutting back on its stimulus policies. ECB President Mario Draghi stressed that the bank has not set a date for considering any changes to those policies. Last month Draghi discussed gradual reductions in stimulus as Europe’s economy gets stronger, and investors had a strong reaction. They pushed the euro higher and yields on long-term bonds also jumped. European bond yields slumped Thursday after Draghi’s remarks.
Japan’s central bank left its monetary stimulus intact while downgrading its outlook for inflation. The Bank of Japan has been injecting trillions of yen into the economy each year through government bond purchases.
AVISTA IN VIEW: Utility company Avista surged after it accepted an offer from Hydro One, the largest power transmitter and distributor in Ontario. It will buy Avista for $5.3 billion, or $53 a share, and Avista stock climbed $7.77, or 17.9 percent, to $51.10.
EARNINGS ROLL CALL: Philip Morris International sank after its net income and sales fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. The tobacco company’s stock shed $2.95, or 2.4 percent, to $118.68. Trucking company C.H. Robinson reported a smaller profit than analysts expected, and its stock dropped $3.98, or 5.8 percent, to $64.71. Equipment rental company United Rentals advanced following stronger-than-expected results. The company said the amount of equipment being rented climbed and it raised its sales forecast for the year. Its stock gained $6.11, or 5.2 percent, to $124.82.
RELIEF FOR SEARS: Sears soared after the retailer said it will begin selling Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. The owner of the Sears and Kmart chains has closed large numbers of stores in recent years and said in March that it might not be able to stay in business. Its stock jumped $1.62, or 18.7 percent, to $10.29 while Amazon picked up $5.85 to $1,032.72. Even with Thursday’s climb, Sears stock is down 31 percent over the last year.
STEADY AS SHE GOES: The stock market is having its quietest year in generations. That might be a surprise because stocks have been setting records almost all year, but there have been almost no big moves. The S&P 500 has risen or fallen 1 percent just four times this year. In a typical year that happens more than 50 times. There’s time for that to change, but it would mean an abrupt shift. The S&P 500 is up 10.5 percent this year.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 32 cents at $47.44 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose 29 cents to $49.99 a barrel in London.
BONDS: Bond prices moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.24 percent from 2.27 percent.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.13 yen from 111.78 yen. The euro gained to $1.1566 from $1.1517.
OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 index advanced 0.7 percent while the French CAC 40 rose 0.5 percent. The DAX in Germany gained 0.7 percent. The Nikkei 225 of Japan advanced 0.6 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.5 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent.