Market wobbles on mixed reports
Google's stock plunged after it released its third-quarter earnings report early, apparently by mistake.
The company's stock was down by more than US$68 or close to 10 per cent in early afternoon trading.
Google was set to report its results after the market closed.
In a regulatory filing, Google Inc said it earned US$2.18 billion, or US$6.53 per share, during the three months ending in September. That compared with net income of US$2.73 billion, or US$8.33 per share, last year.
The earnings would have been US$9.03 per share, if not for Google's accounting costs for employee stock compensation and restructuring charges related to the acquisition of Motorola.
Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting results of US$10.63 per share.
Revenue climbed 45 per cent from last year to US$14.1 billion.
Meantime, a mixed batch of earnings and economic reports kept the stock market wavering between small gains and losses at half-day Thursday.
The Dow was up two points to 13,561 at 1 p.m. It was down for most of the morning. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped one point to 1,459.
"This is a market that's waiting for a clear catalyst," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. What investors most want, she said, is a sense of direction. They hope companies will lay out clearly where earnings and the economy are headed.
"We basically know what happened in the last quarter," Krosby said. "What we're looking for is what's next: Are we turning a corner? Will demand pick up at the end of the year?"
Google's stock dropped US$68.19 to US$687.30 before being halted.
Google's fall helped tug the Nasdaq composite down 23 points to 3,080.
American Express sank 2.4 per cent, the biggest loss of any Dow stock. The credit-card company reported quarterly revenue late Wednesday that fell short of Wall Street's expectations even though earnings were in line. Amex said cardholders' rate of spending has slowed in recent months. Its stock lost US$1.43 to US$57.94.
Strong profits for the insurer Travelers sent its stock up four per cent. The company said Thursday that claims from catastrophes plunged compared to the same quarter last year, which helped earnings double. Travelers' stock gained US$2.78 to US$74.16.
BB&T bank, Philip Morris International and Boston Scientific all fell after reporting results that fell short of analysts' forecasts. Microsoft is scheduled to post earnings after the market closes.
Analysts expect S&P 500 companies to say that overall earnings shrank in the third quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ. That would be the first drop in exactly three years.