NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Macro sentiment and the downward pressure on equities detracted from a 73% profit increase at Dow Chemical ( DOW) in the second quarter as its shares seesawed in Wednesday trading. Investors are using second-quarter earnings as an opportunity to reprice equities, even among the safer, late-cycle plays in the industrial and chemical sectors, limiting the upside in Dow shares even after the company beat the Wall Street consensus and provided an optimistic outlook. Dow Chemical, which has risen 30% over the past year, reported earnings of 85 cents per share, beating the Wall Street consensus by 4 cents. Its $982 million profit in the second quarter almost doubled the $566 million of the year-ago quarter. Dow Chemical revenue was $16 billion, beating the consensus of $14.7 billion.
Shares in the basic materials sector were down much less than the broader equity markets on Wednesday, but Dow shares seesawed on heavy volume. Dow shares rebounded as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 came off their worst morning losses, but remained trading close to flat. Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris said during its Wednesday conference call that it has reached an agreement to sell its polypropylene (PP) business for $340 million. From the durable goods order drop in June to the continuing debt ceiling drama in Washington, D.C., to fears that consumer spending and capital spending will slow globally, investors are choosing between a glass half-empty or entire empty scenario as a way to read second-quarter earnings, said William Blair analyst Nick Heyman. In the case of Dow Chemical, CEO Andrew Liveris couched his optimistic comments about continued growth in an earnings release this way: "no one is immune to unexpected global economic developments." Mark Gulley, analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, said corporate CEOs have to make the obligatory comments about the macroeconomic issues even as they report strong quarters. Dow said it sees continued traction in the developed markets, "albeit at a somewhat uneven and jagged pace given persistently high unemployment in the United States and sovereign debt concerns in Europe." Dow also noted the "inflationary pressures" in the emerging economies, though again it was within an optimistic outlook.