Wall St treads water on weak earning reports

US stocks eked out small gains yesterday in another uninspiring session on Wall Street, with worries about weak business spending keeping investors wary.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 26.34 points, or 0.20 per cent, to 13,103.68 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 4.22 points, or 0.30 per cent, to finish at 1,412.97. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 4.42 points, or 0.15 per cent, to end at 2,986.12.

After the close of trading, Apple, the most valuable public company in the United States, posted quarterly earnings that fell short of expectations. Apple’s earnings per share came in at $8.67, compared with Wall Street’s estimate for $8.75 a share.

Equity futures fell on the news, with S&P 500 futures dropping 3 points to 1,405.20, signaling a possible fall in stocks today.

The broad S&P 500 has declined 3.6 per cent over the previous five sessions before a modest rebound Thursday. A string of high-profile disappointments pointing to weak global demand has sapped buying enthusiasm after what has been a strong run in 2012.

There were a few bright spots during the day, such as Procter & Gamble, which rose 2.9 per cent to end the regular session at $70.07 after reporting stronger-than-expected results. But that was not enough to motivate investors reeling from a sharp decline in recent days.

With about 244 companies in the S&P 500 reporting results so far, 62.3 per cent have beaten expectations, a slight improvement on the typical 62 per cent average, Thomson Reuters data showed.