* Banks start reporting results on Thursday
* Industrials, materials, financials down, defensive sectors
* S&P 500 falls below 50-day moving average; VIX, gold rise
* Indexes down: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
(Updates to late afternoon)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, April 12 U.S. stocks eased on
Wednesday as investors sought shelter in defensive shares and
other low-risk assets amid lingering geopolitical concern.
Industrials and materials were the biggest drags along with
financials, while utilities, staples and telecommunications gave
the S&P 500 its biggest lift.
The S&P financial index was down 0.7 percent a day
before three major banks are due to report results in what will
be the start of the corporate earnings season. Analysts are
expecting earnings to have risen 10 percent in the first
quarter, Thomson Reuters data shows.
"Short term, it's more policy driven than it is earnings
driven," said Mark Lamkin, chief executive of Lamkin Wealth
Management in Louisville, Kentucky.
But, he said, "Eventually the market always follows
earnings. If we get closer to that double-digit gain, we'll stay
fully invested. If that surprises to the light side, we'll get
The United States launched missiles at a Syrian airfield
last week to retaliate for a deadly gas attack on civilians. The
strikes pushed President Donald Trump, who came to power in
January calling for warmer ties with Syria's ally Russia, and
his administration into confrontation with Moscow.
Investors are concerned that these developments could
distract Trump from pursuing pro-business policies such as tax
cuts, simpler regulations and higher infrastructure spending,
promises that have powered Wall Street to record highs since his
election in November.
The S&P 500 fell below its 50-day moving average, an
indicator of the intermediate-term trend. At the same time, gold
and CBOE Volatility index, Wall Street's fear gauge,
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 57.76
points, or 0.28 percent, to 20,593.54, the S&P 500 had
lost 8.64 points, or 0.37 percent, to 2,345.14 and the Nasdaq
Composite had dropped 26.27 points, or 0.45 percent, to
Wells Fargo, along with Citigroup and JPMorgan
are due to report results on Thursday, the last trading day of
the week ahead of the Good Friday holiday.
Delta Air Lines was up 0.5 percent at $45.51,
boosted by a better-than-expected quarterly profit and an upbeat
forecast for current-quarter passenger unit revenue.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a
2.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and one new low; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 49 new highs and 34 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru;
Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and James Dalgleish)