Photographer: Maurice Tsai/Bloomberg

U.S. Stocks Little Changed as Chipmakers Slide Offsets Netflix

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U.S. stocks were little changed, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index neared a record, as semiconductors declined on SanDisk Corp. results to offset a rally in Netflix Inc.

SanDisk sank 4.5 percent after predicting 2015 sales that fell short of analysts’ estimates. Netflix Inc. surged 18 percent as it reported a jump in quarterly subscribers. Citigroup Inc. added 1.5 percent as results topped estimates, and UnitedHealth Group Inc. gained 3.7 percent after raising its full-year forecast.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent to 2,104.99 at 4 p.m. in New York, after earlier rising within 0.3 percent of its record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 6.84 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 18,105.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index also fell less than 0.1 percent. About 6.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 6 percent below the three-month average.

“We’re right up near the all-time highs in the S&P, and sometimes you take a breather before you break through those levels,” said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in Newton, Massachusetts.

Energy shares in the S&P 500 erased a drop of 1.1 percent to rise as much as 0.5 percent before slipping again. The group’s 6.5 percent rally in April -- its best month since January 2013 -- has underpinned the S&P 500’s latest run at its first record since March 2.

Trading Range

The S&P 500 has been stuck in a range of 52 points since March 20 when it last neared its record, as weaker-than-forecast data from hiring to manufacturing elevated concern about earnings while at the same time bolstered the case for keeping interest rates lower for longer.

The benchmark has advanced 2.2 percent this year, trailing benchmark gauges in all developed markets tracked by Bloomberg except Greece, with the Federal Reserve set to raise rates this year.

Investors are weighing economic reports for clues on the timing of the Fed’s first rate increase since 2006. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said that while rates will probably rise this year, any decision depends on economic data. Housing starts rose less than forecast in March, while jobless claims increased in the latest week.

Fourteen companies reported quarterly results today. Analysts predict earnings for S&P 500 companies fell 5.6 percent in the first quarter, cutting projections amid concern over a surging dollar and worse-than-forecast economic reports.

Sector Performance

Seven of the S&P 500’s 10 main groups fell Thursday, led by utilities, phone and raw-material companies. Consumer and financial companies rose, with Netflix’s 18 percent climb to a record leading the discretionary category.

The company said its video-streaming service topped 62 million subscribers worldwide. U.S. subscribers jumped by 2.28 million in the first quarter, while international accounts rose 2.6 million, both beating the company’s earlier forecast. Netflix has been one of the biggest contributors to the Nasdaq Composite’s gains this year amid the stock’s 65 percent rally.

Semiconductors retreated as SanDisk fell 4.5 percent. The company, which makes memory chips used in mobile devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone, said sales will fall in 2015 as it loses customers, delays products and chip prices fall. Applied Materials Inc. lost 3 percent and Broadcom Corp. slid 1.2 percent.

Philip Morris

Chipmakers were the best performers yesterday among 24 industries in the S&P 500 after Intel Corp.’s earnings and outlook. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index Thursday declined 0.5 percent after rising 1.6 percent Wednesday.

Steel companies Nucor Corp. and Allegheny Technologies Inc. fell more than 2.3 percent to lead materials companies lower. Sherwin-Williams Co. lost 1.7 percent after the paint maker’s first-quarter earnings missed analysts estimates.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. climbed 3.7 percent to an all-time high. The largest U.S. health insurer raised its 2015 forecast and posted first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates amid higher revenue from its Optum technology business. Peers Aetna Inc., Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. all rebounded more than 1.9 percent after each lost at least 1.6 percent yesterday.

Philip Morris International Inc. jumped 8.7 percent, the most in the more than six years, to lead consumer staples higher. The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company beat first-quarter profit estimates after sales volume was better than the company expected.

Hot IPOs

Citigroup’s 1.5 percent climb paced gains in financial companies as the group rose for a fourth day. Citi’s earnings exceeded analysts’ forecasts as a cost-cutting push helped the third-largest U.S. bank weather a slump in trading. Bank of America Corp. advanced 1 percent.

Three initial public offerings all jumped in their trading debuts, with artisan website Etsy Inc. posting the biggest gain, up 88 percent. High-frequency trader Virtu Financial Inc. climbed 17 percent, while party-supplies retailer Party City Holdco Inc. added 22 percent.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index fell 1.9 percent to 12.60. The gauge, known as the VIX, declined 14 percent last week to its lowest level of 2015.

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