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Stocks Flounder With 'Too Big to Fail' Earnings in Focus

Stocks floundered on Thursday, unable to stretch the week's rally into a third day, as investors waited for more earnings to gauge how S&P 500 companies had fared in the first quarter.

Benchmark indexes dipped in and out of the green for much of the day. The S&P 500 closed up 0.02%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.1%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.03%.

"We're beginning to get to the realization that earnings are going to be a hodgepodge this time around," Tom Siomades, head of Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group, told TheStreet. "Anytime someone doesn't do as badly as we thought they were going to do, you're seeing these spikes in the market."

S&P 500 earnings are expected to fall 7.9% in the first quarter, their fourth straight drop the worst losing streak since mid-2009. Excluding the energy sector, earnings are forecast to fall 3.6%. Only three S&P 500 sectors are expected to have positive earnings growth: consumer discretionary, telecommunications, and health care.

Major earnings from 'too big to fail' companies including Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) and Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report) on Thursday bested earnings estimates, though gains were muted after financials rallied a day earlier on a bigger profit beat from JPMorgan (JPM - Get Report) .

Wells Fargo and Bank of America are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be...