January 24, 2018 / 7:56 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Wall St Flat in choppy session, Nasdaq lags

(Updates to mid-afternoon, changes byline)

* GE slips after revealing regulatory probe

* Dollar slides on Mnuchin’s remarks

* Dow up 0.24 pct, S&P 500 up 0.11 pct, Nasdaq down 0.33 pct

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Both the Dow and S&P 500 edged higher on Wednesday while the Nasdaq lost ground in choppy trading in the wake of comments by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross which hinted at action against China in a trade war.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ross said U.S. trade authorities were investigating whether there is a case for taking action over China’s infringements of intellectual property.

That was enough to erase early gains and send the S&P down as much as 0.5 percent after equities were initially lifted by another round of solid earnings and a drop in the dollar, which supports large multinational companies.

The Dow and S&P were able to claw back to the upside as investors chose to wait for concrete action.

“It’s a lot of bloviating that really doesn’t matter to anyone,” said Stephen Massocca, Senior Vice President at Wedbush Securities in San Francisco.

“It’s only natural for markets from a technical perspective to rest after they have had this type of move, or even decline a little bit, that is just a valuation trade.”

The dollar fell 1.01 percent against a basket of currencies after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin welcomed the currency’s weakness.

Worries about a protectionist stance have added to the dollar’s woes after U.S. President Donald Trump slapped steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels on Monday.

Bank stocks were among the gainers, tracking a rise in U.S. Treasury yields following the dip in dollar. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs rose more than 1 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 63.55 points, or 0.24 percent, to 26,274.36, the S&P 500 gained 3.17 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,842.3 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 24.34 points, or 0.33 percent, to 7,435.95.

Earnings season continues to come in strong, with S&P 500 growth expected at 12.4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data through Wednesday morning. Of the 88 companies in the index that have posted results, 78.4 percent have topped expectations versus the 72 percent beat rate for the past four quarters.

Among those posting results, General Electric fell 2.34 percent after the company revealed a regulatory investigation of a multibillion-dollar insurance charge.

The company in its earnings report forecast further weakening of its troubled power business and reported a $10 billion loss and a 5-percent fall in revenue.

Abbott Laboratories jumped 4.37 percent after quarterly profit and 2018 adjusted earnings forecast beat estimates.

Semiconductor stocks were off 2.07 percent and pulled the Nasdaq lower as Texas Instruments slumped 8.03 percent after it posted the slowest revenue growth in four quarters on softer demand for its chips used in communications equipment.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.21-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.68-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 141 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 183 new highs and 12 new lows. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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