Mixed results keep Wall St trading flat

THE S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended flat yesterday with Boeing’s five-year high among the day's highlights, but weakness in Procter & Gamble and AT&T kept the Dow in negative territory.

Procter & Gamble shares fell 5.8 per cent to $77.12 after the world’s largest household products maker issued a profit outlook that was below expectations. It was the stock’s biggest drop since January 2009, and contributed to a 1.7 per cent drop in the S&P consumer staples index.

AT&T reported a net loss of mobile phone subscribers in the first quarter as it lost market share, sending its shares down five per cent to $37.04.

Materials and energy stocks led the S&P 500’s gains as copper and oil prices bounced back from recent declines. Commodity gains were capped by worries about the outlook for global economic growth.

A sharp drop in US durable goods orders last month added to that concern, putting a lid on equity gains.

“The flow of news doesn’t fully justify the optimism that investors want to bring to the market,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.

“In this environment, it is hard to justify paying this kind of premium for stocks, and it is hard to see the catalyst for strong growth.”

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.16 points or 0.29 per cent, to end at 14,676.30. But the S&P 500 eked out a gain of a mere 0.01 of a point or zero per cent to finish at 1,578.79. And the Nasdaq Composite added just 0.32 of a point or 0.01 per cent to close at 3,269.65.

Microsoft led overall gains among S&P 500 components with a 3.8 per cent advance to $31.76 after announcing it will unveil its much anticipated next-generation Xbox on 21 May.