Health, defense stocks help Wall Street grind higher

 Health, defense stocks help Wall Street grind higher

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks eked out gains on Thursday to consolidate near a one-month high, helped by advances in the healthcare and industrial sectors and as financials shrugged off Morgan Stanley's disappointing earnings.

Shares of the investment bank tumbled 4.59 percent after reporting a lower-than-expected quarterly profit, rounding off earnings for the big six Wall Street banks on a weak note.

The S&P 500 financials index fell as much as 1 percent, before recovering to trade just 0.11 percent lower. The index has not ended lower for 10 straight sessions, helped by strong results from Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs Group Inc earlier this week.

"The news about Morgan Stanley is wearing off. The issues that caused the shortfall in revenue for Morgan Stanley seem to have been self-induced and not necessarily a commentary on what's going on in banking," said Kim Forrest, senior portfolio manager at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

"Markets have certainly sold off since September and there are investors who look out and see bargains," Forrest said.

Industrial stocks were up 0.77 percent, with gains led by defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman as President Donald Trump unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy.

The trade-sensitive sector was 0.48 percent weaker earlier in the day on fears that the fragile Sino-U.S. trade talks could be torpedoed after U.S. lawmakers introduced bills to ban the sale of U.S. chips or other parts to Huawei Technologies Co and certain other Chinese telecoms firms.

Also helping the market was a 0.41 percent bounce in health stocks. The index has lagged the rise in other growth sectors this year after outperforming all other indexes in 2018.

At 11:54 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 22.26 points, or 0.09 percent, at 24,184.90, the S&P 500 was up 3.88 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,619.98 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 8.80 points, or 0.13 percent, at 7,043.49

The S&P remains about 12 percent away from its Sept. 20 record-high close after a recent rally saw it claw back from a 20-month low around Christmas on concerns over a global economic slowdown.

Netflix Inc, which will kick off earnings for the FAANG group when it reports after the bell, rose 0.17 percent. The video-streaming pioneer raised U.S. subscription rates earlier this week.

Analysts have cut their expectations for S&P 500 companies' fourth-quarter profit growth to 14.2 percent from the 20.1 percent forecast on Oct. 1, per IBES data from Refinitiv.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.46-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 18 new highs and 12 new lows.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 00:05:28 IST