Wall Street flat amid earnings

Investors digest fresh round of earnings, look ahead to US data reports delayed by govt shutdown.

United States stocks were flat as investors digested earnings season and weighed a measure of the US mortgage market ahead of other economic reports due this week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 20 points, or 0.1%, to 15,379 points.

The S&P 500 was unchanged at 1,745 points.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was up eight points at 3,922 points.

On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 0.7% to close at a record high for the second-straight session. Other key market indexes, such as the Russell 2000, the S&P Midcap 400, the Dow Jones Transportation Average and the Dow Jones Total Stock Market Index also closed at all-time highs. The Dow Industrials edged up 0.2% Friday to close 1.8% below the previous record high of 15676.94.

Earnings took centre stage Monday after lawmakers reached a deal last week to suspend the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government. "With the government shutdown out of the way you'll see much more scrutiny on profit reports," said Dane Leone, head of US market strategy at Macquarie in New York.

Also underpinning sentiment is the growing belief that the 16-day government shutdown, which led to the postponement of several economic reports, will keep the Federal Reserve from scaling back on stimulus measures.

Separately, stocks were unfazed after a report showed declining existing-home sales for September, an indication the higher mortgage rates are cooling the housing market. Home resales fell 1.9% last month to a seasonally adjusted 5.29 million, the National Association of Realtors said.

Economists had expected sales to come in at 5.3 million.

Among early stock movers, Dow component J.P. Morgan Chase reversed early losses after the bank reached a tentative agreement to pay $13 billion to end a number of civil investigations into its sale of mortgage securities before the 2008 financial crisis, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Dow component McDonald's slid after the fast-food giant reported third-quarter earnings that rose slightly above analyst estimates, but provided a somewhat downbeat outlook for fourth-quarter same-store sales.

Halliburton fell, erasing an early gain after the oil-field services company reported a 17% rise in third-quarter profits, lifted by strong revenue growth in its overseas operations.

When the complete tally is in, analysts expect S&P 500 companies' quarterly profits to show a 1.1% gain from a year earlier, including results from the nearly one-fifth of the group that has already reported.

Focus on economic data will increase the rest of the week, as the releases that were postponed during the 16-day government shutdown start trickling in. On Tuesday, the government will release the September employment report, originally scheduled for Oct. 2.

Garry Evans, global head of equity strategy with HSBC, said he would still watch the jobs report closely despite the delay. He said a strong or weak report would affect the Federal Reserve's decision about when it will start paring its stimulus efforts, known as "tapering." The report could have extra significance, he said, because it will not include distortions from the US government shutdown.

"The timing of tapering is up in the air again," he said. "The Fed wants to see better economic data ... and it'll be the last clean [report] for a while."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 2.607% from 2.589% late Friday.

The dollar edged higher against the euro and the yen. The dollar had been hit last week as investors pushed back their expectations of when the Federal Reserve might start winding down its stimulus measures. But UBS strategist Geoffrey Yu said market participants were now punting on a slightly stronger dollar "in case we do get a slew of good US data."

European markets nudged higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 was on track for an eighth straight gain, up 0.1%. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 was up 0.9% after a survey released over the weekend showed that Britons were more optimistic about their finances in October than they have been on average over the past four years. Germany's DAX 30 index slipped 0.1%.

The US-listed shares of Germany's SAP rose after the technology giant reported a strong rise in third-quarter profit, helped by declining costs, and affirmed its full-year outlook.

Asian markets rallied, which Chinese stocks leading the way, after the State Council said on Sunday that the economy was on track to meet its growth targets, and that it would continue to transform the economy. China's Shanghai Composite climbed 1.6% and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average ended up 0.9%.

November crude-oil futures lost 0.7% to $100.43 a barrel, while November gold futures tacked on 0.3% to $1,317.70 an ounce.

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