January 24, 2012 / 10:49 AM / 6 years ago

Mixed earnings, Greece end Wall Street's 5-day run

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks edged lower on Tuesday, ending a five-day rally for the S&P 500, as talks to resolve Greece’s debt crisis hit a snag and earnings from a number of blue chips disappointed investors.

Greece moved closer to the possibility of a chaotic default as talks to restructure the country’s debt stalled. However, the U.S. market has been less sensitive to the Greek drama of late.

“The situation in Greece has raised concerns and the market has pulled back, but I don’t think it is impacting the market as much (as before),” said Doug Cote, the chief market strategist at ING Investment Management.

Corporate earnings did not inspire buying. Among the day’s earnings disappointments were Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Travelers Cos Inc (TRV.N), which were the biggest drags on the Dow.

Apple shares jumped 9 percent to $457.12 in post-session trading after the electronics company reported results that blew past Wall Street’s estimates, primarily on a huge jump in sales of iPhones and iPads.

Apple’s announcement lifted Nasdaq 100 index futures 25.75 points, or around 1.1 percent, late on Tuesday, but the news may not be enough to pull stocks higher on Wednesday.

“We’ve had a big move in the last few weeks. It will definitely help keep the market at these levels, but whether it will propel the market higher is in question,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

According to Thomson Reuters data, 20 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings, with 58 percent topping Wall Street expectations, down from levels seen before at this point in the earnings season. The average beat rate has been 70 percent.

This week is one of the busiest in the quarterly earnings season, with 117 S&P 500 companies due to report.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI finished down 33.07 points, or 0.26 percent, at 12,675.75. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX was down 1.37 points, or 0.10 percent, at 1,314.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC rose 2.47 points, or 0.09 percent, at 2,786.64.

Earlier on Tuesday, Travelers reported a smaller-than-estimated profit as it released less money from its reserves than a year earlier, but it also announced its biggest rate increases in eight years. The stock fell 3.8 percent to $58, but analysts had expected the drop and called it a buying opportunity.

    Verizon’s profit missed estimates by a penny as its wireless business was hit by the high costs of sales of advanced phones, such as the Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhone.

    McDonald’s reported stronger-than-expected December sales, but its shares fell on investor concerns its profit may have beat expectations only because of income unrelated to operations.

    McDonald’s fell 2.2 percent to $98.77, and Verizon shed 1.6 percent to $37.79.

    The Federal Open Market Committee began a two-day meeting on Tuesday, at the end of which policymakers will start a new practice of announcing their interest rate projections. The Fed hopes the projections, to be released on Wednesday, will give markets and the public greater clarity about its decision-making.

    U.S. President Barack Obama is set to deliver his State of the Union address at 9 p.m. (0200 GMT on Wednesday) and is expected to announce initiatives on jobs, taxes and energy.

    About 6.25 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq on Tuesday, compared with this year’s average of about 6.6 billion shares.

    Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Kenneth Barry

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