US stocks remain in tight range, as plunging oil prices limit gains

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The Dow fell slightly on Thursday, but the NASDAQ and S&P ticked upwardThe Dow fell slightly on Thursday, but the NASDAQ and S&P ticked upward — U.S. stocks were relatively flat on Thursday, remaining in tight, range-bound trade, as a disappointing quarter from Ford Motor Company (NYSE:) and continued offset momentum from strong results in the technology sector on the busiest day of second quarter earnings season.

The fell 15.82 or 0.09% to 18,456.35, closing lower for the fourth consecutive session and the fifth time in the last six trading days. Despite the recent sell-off the Dow remains less than 1% from last week’s record-high of 18,622.01 at the completion of a nine-day, Post-Brexit rally. At session-lows, the Dow fell by as much as 103 points.

The gained 15.17 or 0.30% to 5,154.98, while the Composite index added 13.48 or 0.16% to 2,170.06. Buoyed by the stellar earnings among a host of large-cap tech stocks, the NASDAQ is on pace for its fifth consecutive positive week. On the S&P 500, seven of 10 sectors closed in the green as stocks in the Consumer Services, Technology and Financial industries led. Stocks in the Telecom, Energy and Industrials sectors lagged, all closing in negative territory for the session.

With roughly 55% of companies on the S&P 500 reporting second quarter results, earnings have fallen by approximately 2.8% on an annual basis, in line with consensus estimates. By comparison, aggregate earnings of S&P 500 companies on Monday were down by 3.7% from net profits over the same period a year ago. Analysts, however, are concerned with the prospects of reduced forward guidance from major companies in the energy sector as oil prices continue to plummet. In Thursday’s session, crude futures fell to fresh 3-month lows below $42 a barrel, amid prolonged fears of global oversupply.

Shares in Ford fell sharply after the automobile giant said its profits last quarter plunged 9% to $2 billion, as the new vehicle surge displayed signs of topping out. The slowdown comes amid broad declines in used vehicle prices, enhanced incentives for factories and dealers and indications of rising interest rates before the end of the year. Ford lost 1.13 or 8.16% to 12.17, suffering one of its worst single-day declines in at least a year.

The top performer on the Dow was Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), which added 2.95 or 2.17% to 133.01. Apple continues to rally from 52-week lows from earlier last quarter after reporting stronger than expected third quarter iPhone sales on Tuesday. Additionally, Apple also received some goodwill from an announcement in Wednesday’s session that it reached a historical milestone with the sale of the company’s one billionth iPhone. The worst performer was Boeing Company (NYSE:), which fell 2.95 or 2.17% to 133.01. Earlier, Reuters reported that Boeing could halt production of its 747 models after earnings for the renowned jet posted its first quarterly loss this week since 2009.

The biggest gainer on the NASDAQ was O’Reilly Automotive Inc (NASDAQ:) which added 11.16 or 4.02% to 288.67 after analysts at Wedbush upgraded its rating of the auto parts company to an outperform on Thursday. It comes as a plethora of leading hedge funds and investments banks have increased their stake in O’Reilly’s in recent weeks. The worst performer was Whole Foods Market Inc (NASDAQ:), which plunged 3.03 or 9.01% to 30.61. Shares in Whole Foods fell sharply after the natural food grocer reported subdued earnings, amid heightened competition and declining food prices.

On the New York Stock Exchange, advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by a 1,530-1,420 margin.

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