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Wall Street ends near flat ahead of inflation data

NEW YORK - US stocks paused on Monday after a strong rally in the prior session as investors shift focus to a key inflation reading later this week.

For most of the day, stocks struggled for direction amid disappointing earnings from Tyson Foods and Catalent and a short-lived rebound in regional banks.

Shares of Catalent Inc tumbled 25.74 per cent as the contract drug manufacturer saw lower revenue and core profit in 2023, while Tyson Foods tanked 16.41 per cent on a surprise second-quarter loss and a cut in its annual revenue forecast.

A rebound in shares of regional lenders ran out of steam by midday, with the KBW Regional Banking index falling 2.82 per cent after posting its best single-day performance in seven weeks on Friday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.69 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 33,618.69, the S&P 500 gained 1.87 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 4,138.12 and the Nasdaq Composite added 21.50 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 12,256.92.

The struggle for a clearer direction comes after a rally on Friday, when U.S. jobs data pointed to a resilient labor market.

“Whenever you have a big up day, people need more good news to keep the market up every day in a row,” said portfolio manager Moez Kassam of Anson Funds.

The spotlight this week will be on the Labor Department’s inflation reading on Wednesday, which is expected to show the consumer price index (CPI) likely climbed 0.4 per cent in April after gaining 0.1 per cent in March. Producer prices, weekly jobless claims and consumer sentiment data are all lined up for the week.

The data this week should help investors gauge whether the Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening cycle - including its most recent 25 basis point hike last week - is helping tamp down inflation as well as whether fears of stagflation are founded.

“The bigger picture is inflation will remain higher for longer and that we are heading into a recession,” Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.

“Whether that’s hard or soft remains to be seen, but until there’s something to disprove that bigger picture thesis, the overall market is going to remain somewhat range bound.”

A rally in regional banks’ shares proved short-lived, with PacWest Bancorp paring gains to 3.65 per cent after a surge of as much as about 30 per cent earlier in the session after the lender sharply cut its quarterly dividend to boost capital.

Shares of regional banks tumbled for much of last week on worries tied to the collapse of First Republic Bank.

“We’ve had some stabilization in the stocks of middle market banks today because people are realizing prices were moving counter to where the fundamentals actually were,” said Carol Schleif, chief investment officer for BMO Family Office.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s Class B shares rose 0.70 per cent after posting a US$35.5 billion (S$47.03 billion) first-quarter profit, boosted by gains from stocks such as Apple.

Shares of Zscaler Inc rose 20.63 per cent after the cloud security company raised its annual forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.14-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.07-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 7 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 66 new highs and 96 new lows. REUTERS