Wall Street started the week with a mixed performance today, as investors regained a cautious stance in response to a weaker-than-expected...
NEW YORK — Wall Street started the week with a mixed performance today, as investors regained a cautious stance in response to a weaker-than-expected profit report from Bank of America and disappointing news from a smaller bank, National City.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 24.34 points to 12,825.02.
However, Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, gained 42 cents to close at $30.42 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, advanced 43 cents to $79.09.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.16 to 1,388.17, while the technology-focused Nasdaq composite index rose 5.07 to 2,408.04.
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Investors were clearly uneasy about extending last week’s big gains after Bank of America reported that its first-quarter earnings fell 77 percent on write-downs and widening credit losses. BofA’s news followed a week in which big-name companies in general turned in better-than-expected numbers for the first quarter, helping the major stock indexes to gains of more than 4 percent.
Wall Street has at times worried that a slowing economy and a potentially hesitant consumer would crimp profits — especially for the financial sector — in the first three months of the year. Shares of National City dropped after the Midwest bank said it got a $7 billion cash infusion from equity investors, lowered its dividend and posted a $171 million loss for the first quarter.
Not all the earnings news today was disappointing. Merck said its profit nearly doubled in the first quarter because of a $1.4 billion distribution from a partner drug company and a slight rise in sales.
With little in the way of economic data scheduled to arrive this week, investors are looking at a big flow of corporate reports for insights into the well-being of the economy. At this point, investors remain cautious, but because they have already taken huge amounts of money out of stocks, the market appears stuck in a range — fluctuating back and forth as traders recoil at disappointing news but then take advantage of bargain prices.
“The percentage of cash on the sidelines as a percentage of market value is the highest it’s ever been,” said Richard Cripps, chief market strategist for Stifel Nicolaus. “We have an acute level of risk aversion by investors — understandably so.”