US stocks pause ahead of data, earnings

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US equities wavered on Thursday before ending the day little changed, as investors braced for earnings from several tech behemoths and a round of economic data.

The S&P 500 rose 0.06 per cent to 2,388.9, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.04 per cent 20,982.7, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.38 per cent to 6,048.2.

Several technology heavyweights report after the closing bell on Thursday, including Google-parent Alphabet, Microsoft and Intel. Amazon, the e-commerce group, and coffee chain Starbucks are also on the heavy afternoon docket.

Earnings season has been solid so far, roughly halfway through, with about 85 per cent of S&P 500 companies having either met or exceeded profit forecasts, according to FactSet data. Still, the companies reporting on Thursday afternoon represent more than $1.5tn in market value, meaning they can sway the aggregate results.

On Friday, the commerce department issues its first reading on how the economy performed in the first three months of this year. Economists are looking for an annualised growth pace of around 1 per cent but estimates run the gamut with some investment banks calling for the economy have nearly slowed to stall speed. Data on manufacturing and consumer sentiment are also due out on Friday.

Oil prices closed Thursday in the red, but off of the lows of the day. US marker West Texas Intermediate fell 1.3 per cent to $48.97 a barrel, while Brent fell 0.73 per cent to $51.44.

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