Wall St mixed as DuPont lifts outlook

Trader John Panin, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. File photo / AP
Trader John Panin, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. File photo / AP

Wall Street was mixed, as gains in shares of DuPont on better than expected earnings and rising oil prices offset a slide in shares of Procter & Gamble amid concern about its sluggish sales growth.

Also, the Federal Open Market Committee began its two-day meeting. Investors will scrutinise any clues on the timing of a potential interest rate increase in a statement scheduled for release at the end of the gathering on Wednesday in Washington.

Wall Street was mixed. In 2.35pm New York trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched 0.06 percent lower, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.24 percent. In 2.20pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index eked out a 0.12 percent gain.

"The S&P 500 is at what I consider to be a key resistance area in that 2,090 range, so it's going to take some good news to push through that," Alan Gayle, a senior strategist at Atlanta-based RidgeWorth Investments, told Bloomberg. "The FOMC starts its deliberations now and so it would appear at this critical positioning in the market near resistance that traders may be just waiting on the sidelines until the FOMC is done before making any real bets."

The Dow moved lower as slides in shares of Procter & Gamble and those of Microsoft, recently down 2.3 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, outweighed gains in shares of DuPont and those of Boeing, up 2.5 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.
Shares of DuPont climbed after the company, which is preparing to merge with Dow Chemical, lifted its full-year earnings estimate.

"Solid execution, local price and product mix gains, and higher corn area led to a strong start to the year for our ag business," DuPont CEO Ed Breen said in a statement. "Our other businesses generally performed well, slightly above our expectations."

"We made progress with our global cost savings and restructuring plan," Breen noted, adding that the company is on track for savings of US$730 million in 2016, including significant improvements in its corporate cost performance.

Procter & Gamble shares fell after the company, which reported third-quarter earnings that met expectations, issued a warning about the current quarter.

Fourth quarter so-called core earnings per share is expected to be "significantly lower" than prior year due to a combination of increased advertising investments, a higher tax rate, headwinds from foreign exchange and lower non-operating income, the company said in a statement.

Hershey shares declined, down 1.8 percent at 2.23pm in New York, after the company reported a slide in earnings amid lower-than-expected sales of non-seasonal candy, mint and gum.

"Easter performance was solid versus our forecast but non-seasonal candy, mint and gum shipments were below plan," Hershey CEO John Bilbrey said in the statement.

"Non-seasonal CMG [candy, mint and gum] results are anticipated to improve over the remainder of the year driven by greater levels of consumer programming and more effective brand support that should result in net sales, retail takeaway and market share growth," Bilbrey said. "Where we have already made investments, results have been solid."

In a separate statement, Hershey said it had bought Ripple Brand Collective, the owner of the barkTHINS snacking chocolate brand. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Apple is set to release its latest results after the closing bell today.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.2 percent gain from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 index rose 0.4 percent.

France's CAC 40 index declined 0.3 percent, as did Germany's DAX index.

- BusinessDesk

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