US stocks almost unchanged before jobs data

stockU.S. stocks were little changed, after the record raise of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors focus their attention on corporate earnings and the damages of the government lock down to economic conditions in the country. Important data is due today as the Labor department is releasing unemployment rate and non-farm payrolls.

The S&P 500 added less than 1 point to 1,744.66 at 4 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 7.45 points, or less than 0.1%, to 15,392.20. About 5.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, in line with the three-month average.

“There are certainly some digestions going on as these earnings are being reported,” Jim King, president and chief investment officer who helps oversee about $2.4 billion at Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based National Penn Investors Trust Co., said by phone for Bloomberg. “What we know is that earnings are continuing to come through pretty strongly and the Fed continues to promote asset growth. Those two things are the drivers of seeing higher stock prices over the next several quarters.”

The Labor Department will release later today the September jobs report, which was delayed from its original October 4 date because of the 16-day partial federal shutdown that ended October 17. Analysts predict the data will probably show employers added 180,000 workers in September.

Some 108 companies that have reported so far posted 4.5% earnings growth, while sales gained 2.1%. Some 70% of the companies have topped analysts’ profit estimates, while 54% have beaten on sales.

In corporate news, Apple added 2.5% to $521.36. The stock is up nine straight days, the longest streak since October 2010. The company is upgrading its iPad lineup to battle with a growing list of competitors, which are introducing their own tablets at lower prices with snazzier features.

GE added 2.3% to $26.14, the highest level since September 2008. The company has surged 8.1% over four days, the biggest gain for that time span since December 2011. The maker of jet engines, power generation equipment and locomotives was added to Citigroup Inc.’s U.S. focus list. The company last week assured investors that its industrial business is poised to meet a goal for profit-margin growth.

AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, added 1.8% to $35.22. The company announced yesterday it has agreed to sell or lease 9,700 wireless towers with Crown Castle International Corp. for $4.85 billion, giving it extra cash as it considers a European expansion. The agreement makes AT&T the latest carrier to offload towers to independent operators.

Netflix Inc. jumped 6.4% to $354.99 ahead of its earnings announcement. After the market close, the world’s largest subscription-video service reported third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, and signed up U.S. customers faster than projected. The shares added 9.4% as of 4:47 p.m. New York time.

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