Wall Street tracks flat open as earnings counter China data gloom

(Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open flat on Friday, as upbeat earnings reports calmed nerves about the global economy after China expanded at its weakest pace in almost 30 years.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors are closely watching the health of the world’s second-largest economy as the prolonged trade war with the United States fuels fears about a global recession.

While global equities fell on the third-quarter report, a raft of robust earnings from Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), American Express Co (AXP.N) and Schlumberger NV (SLB.N) lifted the mood.

Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) shares gained 2.8% premarket after the beverage maker beat analysts’ expectations for quarterly sales.

Credit card issuer American Express Co (AXP.N) and oilfield services provider Schlumberger reported better-than-expected profits. Their shares rose 2% and 1.4%, respectively.

“The move is a mix of a lot of things which aren’t all that negative or all that positive. It will be a quiet day, mainly driven by some earnings reports,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The S&P 500 .SPX and Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI indexes were on pace to post their second week of gains, as the third-quarter earnings season kicked off on a strong note.

Analysts still expect third-quarter S&P 500 earnings to have fallen by 2.9%, according to Refinitiv data, the first contraction since mid-2016.

“The pessimism around the onset of earnings season was too strong but because of that, there is plenty of room for companies to outperform,” Frederick added.

At 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were up 20 points, or 0.07%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were up 1.75 points, or 0.06% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 remained unchanged.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) slipped 2.7% after the healthcare conglomerate said it would recall a single lot of its baby powder in the United States after the Food and Drug Administration found trace amounts of asbestos in samples taken from a bottle purchased online.

Department store stores and other apparel retailers took a hit after Credit Suisse said weak third-quarter retail trends could continue into fall and holiday season.

The brokerage downgraded shares of Macy’s (M.N), Gap Inc (GPS.N) and L Brands (LB.N) to “underperform”, pushing their shares down 4.6% and 6.5%. Nordstrom (JWN.N), Kohl’s Corp (KSS.N) and Hanesbrands (HBI.N) also fell between 2% and 5%.

Shares of online broker E*Trade Financial Corp (ETFC.O) rose 4.8% after it posted better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue.

Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) dropped 1.1% after Morgan Stanley downgraded the industrial giant’s shares to “equal-weight”, citing growing risks from weakening demand heading into 2020.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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