Wall Street moved solidly in the one direction on Friday, July 21, an oddity after days of mixed results.
The S&P 500 fell 0.04%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined by 0.15%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.04%.
All benchmark indexes had snagged record closes earlier in the week in what has largely been subdued action. The Nasdaq ended at all-time highs in three of the past five sessions, while S&P 500 scored records for two of the days. The Dow also ended at records mid-week, though has largely been under pressure for the past few days.
Even with recent highs, trading on Wall Street has been relatively muted with investors more in wait-and-see mode than a bullish mindset, said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private, in a note.
"Strange as it may sound the action in the market feels as though we're nowhere near an all-time high," said Pavlik. "Overall volume is down and most investors apparently are acting as though they're more cautious than anything else."
Dow component General Electric Co. (GE) - Get Report was the biggest drag on markets after CEO Jeffrey Immelt issued a weak outlook. In his final earnings conference call before stepping down as CEO, Immelt said GE's performance in its oil and gas businesses would be "lower than previously anticipated" as growth in the market improves at a slower pace. Immelt said the company would likely see full-year earnings toward the bottom of its previous range of $1.60 to $1.70 a share.
The industrials leader reported higher profit than Wall Street expected in its recent quarter. Cash from industrial operations climbed $3.1 billion from a gloomy start to the year. Profit of 28 cents a share in the three months through June topped the 25-cent average estimate from analysts surveyed by FactSet.
Total revenue of $29.6 billion, higher than estimates, still dropped 12% from a year earlier as locomotive sales slid amid falling railroad deliveries for U.S. shale drilling. Revenue from oil and gas equipment dropped 3% to $3.1 billion as oil prices at less than half a 2014 peak continued to curb demand from producers.
The earnings season has so far largely exceeded expectations. Nearly one-fifth of S&P 500 companies have reported on the second quarter so far this reporting season. Of those, 74.2% have exceeded earnings estimates, while 72.7% have topped revenue forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) - Get Report topped estimates on its top and bottom lines for its fiscal fourth quarter. Adjusted earnings in the quarter were 98 cents a share, which included a gain of 23 cents a share from the write-down of Microsoft's money-losing Windows Phone business. Analysts predicted the company would earn 71 cents a share in the quarter. Revenue rose 13% from a year earlier to $24.7 billion, higher than Wall Street projections of $24.3 billion.
The company's Intelligent Cloud unit, which contains its Azure cloud platform and Windows Server product, saw sales jump 11% to $7.4 billion, beating consensus estimates of $7.3 billion. Microsoft doesn't break out results for its Azure cloud platform but noted that revenue at Azure increased 97% year over year in the quarter.
Visa Inc. (V) - Get Report reported a quarterly beat on its top- and bottom-lines. The credit card company earned 86 cents a share, a nickel higher than expected. Revenue surged 25.6% to $4.56 billion, exceeding estimates by $200 million. Visa said it processed $1.86 trillion on its network in the quarter, up 38% from a year earlier. In the U.S., the company's largest market, Visa said payments processed rose 12%.
Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) - Get Report declined after a mixed quarter. Adjusted earnings of 72 cents a share met consensus, while revenue of $3.83 billion fell short of an expected $3.9 billion. CEO Ian Cook said "uncertainty in global markets and slowing category growth worldwide remain challenging." The multinational anticipates full-year net sales to rise in the low-single digits.
Capital One Financial (COF) - Get Report reported better-than-expected earnings and improved revenue over its second quarter. Earnings of $1.96 a share came in 6 cents better than estimated. Sales increased 7.2% to $6.7 billion, $30 million higher than consensus.
Honeywell International Inc. (HON) - Get Report jumped by 1% after reporting earnings and sales growth. Profit increased to $1.80 a share from $1.70, while sales rose nearly 1% to $10.08 billion. Analysts anticipated $1.78 a share on $9.88 billion in sales. CEO Darius Adamczyk said the company worked toward future growth through "new product introductions, additions to the sales organization, and more than $115 million of restructuring funding."
Honeywell also increased full-year revenue targets to $39.3 billion to $40 billion and earnings guidance to $7 to $7.10. Both wrapped around consensus of $39.4 billion in sales and $7.08 a share in profit.
Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) - Get Report declined slightly after topping earnings and sales estimates and announcing plans to buy a majority state in Russia's Eurasia Drilling. The oil company earned 35 cents a share over its recent quarter, 5 cents above expectations. Revenue increased 4.2% to $7.46 billion and beat consensus by $220 million. Schlumberger anticipates strong growth in North America in the second half of the year.
eBay Inc. (EBAY) - Get Report fell nearly 2% after a quarterly performance that met estimates, but did not beat them. Adjusted earnings rose to 45 cents from 43 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Revenue increased 4.5% to $2.33 billion, matching consensus. The online auction site anticipates adjusted third-quarter earnings of 46 cents to 48 cents a share, meeting estimates on the high-end.
Crude oil prices were sharply lower even after weekly drilling activity data showed its first decline in three weeks. The number of active U.S. oil-drilling rigs fell by one to 764 in the past week, according to Baker Hughes. The total number of active rigs declined by two to 950.
West Texas Intermediate was down 2.5% to $45.77 a barrel on Friday.
Major oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) - Get Report , Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS.A) , Chevron Corp. (CVX) - Get Report , Total SA (TOT) - Get Report and BP PLC (BP) - Get Report were lower. The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) - Get Report dropped 0.9%.
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Meet Jim Cramer at an exclusive reception at his Bar San Miguel in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Tuesday, July 25, from 6:30 p.m. To 9 p.m.
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Where: Bar San Miguel, 307 Smith St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Tuesday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.