Wall Street was mixed after a raft of earnings results from US tech giants (Johannes EISELE)

New York (AFP) – Stock markets mostly sunk on Thursday as investors digested one of the busiest days of the US corporate earnings season, while oil prices edged back after flirting with six-month highs.

Analyst Patrick O’Hare of Briefing.com summed up the results from major US companies as “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

In the ugly column was a big miss by industrial products manufacturer 3M, which announced worldwide job cuts due to falling sales, helping to drive the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.5 percent. The broader S&P 500 ended essentially flat.

On the good side of the ledger were Microsoft — which became just the third tech giant to reach the $1 trillion value mark — and Facebook, with the two titans bolstering the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index.

“It’s 100 percent about earnings,” analyst Adam Sarhan of 50 Park Investment told AFP. “Investors digest a lot of data and we are getting mixed signals with respect to earnings but mostly positive.”

And online commerce giant Amazon reported that earnings more than doubled in the first quarter to $3.6 billion, but the news came after the market close.

Analysts also were encouraged by US data showing an unexpected jump in durable goods in March, which adds to the positive signs for first quarter GDP growth, due out early Friday.

However European markets closed solidly in the red after the collapse of two mega-mergers in the supermarket and banking industries.

And oil prices neared six-month highs amid supply concerns stoked by the United States’ tightening the screws on sanctions-hit Iran but retreated by the end of the day.

“Brent crude oil has rallied above $75 a barrel for the first time this year on the back of tighter sanctions on Iran, while gains in West Texas Intermediate have been curtailed by a surge in US supply,” noted Dean Popplewell, markets analyst at Oanda trading group.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June jumped to $75.60 per barrel, the highest level since the end of October, before falling back to $74.24.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate prices reached $66.28 per barrel — just 0.03 cents away from its own six-month high — before also dropping back to $65.05.

The US announcement this week that it would remove waivers that had allowed countries to buy oil from Iran despite US sanctions is expected to hit supplies, though analysts are keeping watch on the region and whether OPEC responds by opening up the taps.

– Euro sinks to near 2-year low –

While the mood on trading floors remains broadly positive, there are lingering concerns that growth in most parts of the world is well off the pace of the United States.

European stock markets closed solidly down, with shares in Deutsche Bank down 2.1 percent and Commerzbank dropping 2.4 percent after Germany’s two biggest lenders ended merger talks.

British supermarket Sainsbury’s meanwhile slid 4.7 percent after the UK’s competition watchdog blocked its proposed merger with Walmart-owned Asda.

Asian markets also stuttered following some weak economic data.

In foreign exchange news, the euro dropped to $1.1118, its lowest level against the dollar since June 2017, before rebounding slightly.

“The euro is cheap, dragged down by weak growth, political uncertainty and two-year bond yields that are even lower than Japan’s,” said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at the French bank Societe Generale.

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 26,495.56 (close)

New York – S&P 500: FLAT at 2,926.17 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 8,118.68 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,434.13 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 12,282.60 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 5,557.67 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,491.92 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 22,307.58 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.9 percent at 29,549.80 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 2.4 percent at 3,123.83 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1135 from $1.1156 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2891 from $1.2902

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.61 yen from 112.13 yen

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 27 cents at $74.30 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN eight cents at $65.10 per barrel

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Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.