Wall Street flat as earnings awaited

US stocks drifted in the lightest trading volume of the year yesterday as few dared to place bets ahead of key companies' results later this week.

Expectations the Federal Reserve will flood markets with even more cash have been fully priced in to the market, so investors are now focused on third-quarter earnings season, with Intel scheduled for Tuesday.

Last Friday’s unexpectedly weak payroll report underlined the weakness in some areas of the economy, and increased the expectation that the US central bank will bolster the recovery with a second round of quantitative easing, or QE2.

Meanwhile, three Dow companies – Intel, JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Electric Co – are scheduled to release quarterly results this week.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 3.86 points, or 0.04 per cent, to end at 11,010.34.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index inched up just 0.17 of a point, or 0.01 per cent, to 1,165.32.

The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.42 of a point, or 0.02 per cent, to 2,402.33.

The New York Stock Exchange said about 160 stocks, including the New York-traded shares of London-based BP and China’s CNOOC, as well as Ford and Sprint Nextel, did not close until well after the official closing time of 4 pm EDT (2000 GMT), and the cause of the problem was under investigation.

In an e-mail shortly before 5 p.m. the exchange said all symbols had closed.

About 5.54 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq -- the lightest volume so far in 2010.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about six to five.

The reverse trend took hold on the Nasdaq, where about seven stocks fell for every six that rose.

Apple shares hit an all-time high of $297.24 in intraday trading before closing up 0.4 per cent at $295.36.

Chesapeake Energy rose 1.1 per cent to $23.30 after China’s top offshore oil producer,
CNOOC, agreed to pay $1.1bn for a stake in a US shale oil and gas field, testing the US
political climate for the first time since its 2005 failed bid for Unocal.

The US-listed shares of CNOOC advanced 1.7 per cent to end at $213.15 on the NYSE.