S&P 500 Closes Slightly Red As Weak Corporate Guidance Fuels Recession Fears

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P 500 ended lower on Wednesday as a string of corporate earnings ran the gamut from downbeat to dismal, reviving worries over the economic impact of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s restrictive policy.

All three major U.S. stock indexes pared their losses throughout the afternoon to close well off session lows.

The tech-laden Nasdaq was weighed down after Microsoft Corp, the first major technology firm to post quarterly results, offered dour guidance and raised red flags with respect to its megacap peers which have yet to report.

“We’ve had up and down days, that indicates an ongoing tug-of-war,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “The dour guidance good news from the standpoint of what the Fed is doing is working.”

“That outcome has become the catalyst for the market one way or the other,” Carlson added. “Earnings matter but what’s really got the market’s focus is the Fed interest rate/inflation story.”

Fourth-quarter earnings season has shifted into overdrive, with 95 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 67% have beat consensus estimates, well below the 76% average beat rate over the past four quarters, according to Refintiv.

Analysts now see aggregate S&P 500 earnings dropping 3.0% year-on-year, nearly double the 1.6% drop seen on Jan. 1, per Refinitiv.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 lost 0.73 points, or 0.02%, to end at 4,016.22 points, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 20.92 points, or 0.20%, to 11,313.35. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5.67 points, or 0.03%, to 33,742.72.

Boeing Co’s shares reversed an earlier dip, turning positive after the plane maker posted widening losses for 2022, but reported its first positive cash flow since 2018 on the strength of commercial airplane deliveries.

Abbott Laboratories dropped as weaker-than-expected medical device sales weighed on the stock.

Among gainers, News Corp jumped after Rupert Murdoch withdrew a proposal to reunite News Corp and Fox Corp.

AT&T Inc also delivered disappointing guidance but its renewed focus on its telecoms business helped boost subscriber numbers, sending its shares higher.

General Dynamics Corp slid after its weak 2023 forecast overshadowed its earnings beat.

Electric automaker Tesla Inc is expected to post results shortly.

Finally, in a post-script to Tuesday’s technical glitch which halted the opening auctions for a spate of stocks and prompted a review by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) said a manual error resulted in the snafu which caused widespread confusion at the opening bell.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Aurora Ellis)