• Asian shares mixed as earnings drive modest Wall St gains

    By: ELAINE KURTENBACH, AP Business Writer

    Updated:
    BANGKOK (AP) - Asian shares were mixed on Thursday after U.S. stock indexes eked out tiny gains in a wobbly day of trading as investors reviewed another set of mixed company earnings.

    Japan's Nikkei 225 advanced 0.6% to 22,763.93 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.4% to 26,682.41. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.2% to 2,935.25 and the Kospi in South Korea also fell 0.2%, to 2,076.63 after GDP data came in lower than expected. India's Sensex gained 0.4% to 39,223.01. Shares rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

    A preliminary measure of manufacturing for Japan, the Jibun Flash Manufacturing purchasing managers' index was at its lowest level in more than three years, 48.5 and below the 50 level that marks the break between expansion and contraction.

    While it's still early in this earnings season, traders are trying to gauge how much the U.S. trade war with China and a slowdown in global economic growth is hurting corporate America.

    Some of the companies' earnings topped analysts' expectations. Others put traders in a selling mood after warning that the slowing global economy and trade tensions are hitting their profits.

    "With the US-China trade talks quiet for now, U.S. earnings have driven volatility and market direction this week," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

    The lack of direction in earnings Wednesday was reflected in the market, which spent most of the day wavering between tiny gains and losses.

    "Fewer than a quarter of the companies have reported, so there's a lot more to come," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "But the results have been mixed so far, even with the bar being set as low as it was."

    The S&P 500 rose 0.3%, to 3,004.52. The benchmark index had been down about 0.2% before recovering toward the end of the day.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average also rebounded from a midday drop, gaining 0.2%, to 26,833.95.

    The Nasdaq composite added 0.2%, to 8,119.79. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 0.1% to 1,552.86.

    Analysts are still forecasting the S&P 500 index will end up showing a drop in earnings per share from a year earlier.

    If they're right, it would be the first time that earnings have fallen for three straight quarters since 2015-16, according to FactSet.

    The weakest results are expected to come from companies that rely on the strength of the global economy, which has been slowing amid trade wars. Raw-material producers, technology companies and energy stocks are predicted to report drops of 10% or more, according to FactSet.

    Analysts are forecasting stronger growth for communications companies and businesses that sell to consumers, which have been the strongest part of the economy.

    One worrisome sign is that estimates for 2020 corporate earnings growth have been mostly reduced since the end of last month, Stovall said.

    "There's so much uncertainty out there right now," he said. "The US-China trade relations, whether that is likely to see improvement, and what kind of an impact Europe could experience when Britain does finally leave the EU."

    Boeing rose 1% after it said its 737 Max airplane may return to service by the end of the year and that it will gradually increase 737 production by late 2020. That helped make up for its weaker-than-expected profit for the latest quarter.

    On the losing end was Texas Instruments, which said its customers have become far more cautious than they were even 90 days ago, with trade tensions a big factor. It lost 7.5%.

    Several big companies are scheduled to report quarterly results on Thursday, including American Airlines Group, Amazon and Visa.

    Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 46 cents to $55.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.49 to settle at $55.97 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gave up 35 cents to $60.82. It gained $1.47 to close at $61.17 a barrel.

    The dollar fell to 108.62 Japanese yen from 108.68 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1137 from $1.1131.

    ___

    AP Business writers Alex Veiga and Stan Choe contributed.

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