Financial shares mint fifth day of gains; indexes close flat

April 14, 2016 7:22 AM EDT

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - Wall Street was little changed on Thursday after two days of solid gains as investors digested the latest round of big bank earnings and financial shares kept bouncing back.

Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC) shares rose 2.5 percent, giving the biggest boost to the S&P 500, after the No. 2 U.S. bank by assets reported a slide in quarterly profit in line with expectations. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) shares slipped 0.5 percent after the bank's quarterly report.

Financials <.SPSY>, the worst performing sector this year, rose 0.3 percent and tallied their fifth straight day of gains, the group's first such streak since July. BlackRock (NYSE: BLK) shares rose 1.9 percent after the asset manager announced a restructuring.

Results from JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM), the No. 1 U.S. bank by assets, had helped boost the market on Wednesday a day after energy shares led Wall Street higher.

"The market has enjoyed a strong run and I think the news out today was just a little on the soft side and that took some of the wind out of the sails," said Alan Gayle, director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta.

"The market has rebounded nicely, but it’s running into resistance here, and so it’s going to need some more good news in order to power higher," Gayle said. "The market wants to see a more positive outlook for earnings growth going forward."

Wall Street's rocky start to 2016, amid concerns over the global economy, has been followed by a sharp rebound starting in mid-February. Stocks have steadied in April and the S&P 500 is now positive for 2016.

Investors have turned their attention to the quarterly earnings season that kicked into high gear this week. First-quarter profits among S&P 500 companies are expected to have fallen 7.8 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, but the diminished expectations could be setting the stage for positive surprises that support stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 18.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,926.43, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.36 points, or 0.02 percent, to 2,082.78 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dipped 1.53 points, or 0.03 percent, to 4,945.89.

Energy shares <.SPNY> were the best-performing sector, while consumer staples <.SPLRCS> lagged the most.

Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX) shares fell 20.1 percent to $27.11, and were the biggest drag on the S&P 500. The hard-disk maker estimated fiscal third-quarter revenue and adjusted gross margin below its forecast.

About 6.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,655 to 1,332, for a 1.24-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,412 issues fell and 1,384 advanced for a 1.02-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and 13 new lows.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Nick Zieminski)

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