This story was updated at 4 p.m. EDT
U.S. stocks closed flat Monday as investor sentiment waned amid global growth concerns after China’s economy grew at its slowest pace since the financial crisis. Meanwhile, market professionals continued to weigh mixed corporate earnings after Morgan Stanley posted a 42 percent drop in quarterly profit.
Wall Street is looking ahead to a speech from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen this week, searching for further clues on the timing of the U.S. central bank’s looming interest rate increase. Yellen is scheduled to speak Tuesday at the Labor Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony in Washington, D.C., at 11 a.m. EDT.
After falling roughly 80 points following the opening bell, the blue-chip Dow traded in a tight range in afternoon trading.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) added 15 points, or 0.08 percent, to close at 17,231. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) edged up 0.6 points, or 0.03 percent, to finish at 2,034. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rose 19 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 4,905.
Five of the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed lower, led by a 2 percent drop in energy stocks after oil prices fell as much as 3 percent on concerns over the pace of economic growth in China.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, lost 2.9 percent to $45.89 per barrel for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On the London ICE Futures Exchange, Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil prices, fell 3.2 percent to $48.80.
Data issued Monday revealed that China decelerated to its slowest pace since the global financial crisis last quarter, raising questions whether the world’s second-largest economy can meet its annual gross domestic product target of about 7 percent.
China’s economy expanded by 6.9 percent in the July-September quarter, down from 7 percent in the prior quarter. But the figure still beat expectations slightly as economists had forecast GDP would grow 6.8 percent in July-September period from a year earlier, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
The continued steadiness of China’s official GDP figures will further raise concerns over the data’s credibility.
“These figures need to be taken with a grain of salt as official GDP growth appears to have become a poor gauge of the performance of China’s economy,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics, said in a research note Monday. “We do think the official figures are currently overstating growth by a wide margin; we nonetheless have reason to think that actual growth was indeed broadly stable last quarter.”
Shares of Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) sank 5 percent Monday after the sixth-biggest U.S. bank by assets posted third-quarter earnings and revenue that missed Wall Street forecasts, driven by a 17 percent decline in trading revenue. The decline in the bank’s trading unite contributed to a 42 percent drop in profit last quarter.
Notable companies reporting quarterly results after the closing bell include technology company International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), which beat estimates in the prior quarter, while revenue fell short of expectations. The company continues to shed unprofitable businesses, such as its chip segment, to focus on cloud-computing initiatives.