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US stocks lower after mixed earnings

The S&P 500 has ended nominally lower at the close of a rocky session marked by a raft of mixed earnings and a technical malfunction at the opening bell.

A spate of NYSE-listed stocks were halted at the top of the session on Tuesday due to an apparent technical malfunction, which caused initial price confusion and prompted an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

More than 80 stocks were affected by the glitch, which caused wide swings in opening prices in dozens of stocks, including Walmart Inc and Nike Inc.

"Everybody's having computer problems, first the airlines and now it's the NYSE," said Tim Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist Ingalls & Snyder in New York. "Seems like it was quickly corrected."

"Some of the prints were clearly bad," Ghriskey said. "It was a surprise. Unexpected."

The Nasdaq joined the S&P 500 in negative territory, while the Dow ended modestly higher.

Fourth-quarter earnings season is in full swing, with 72 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 65 per cent have beaten consensus, just a hair below the 66 per cent long-term average, according to Refinitiv.

On aggregate, analysts expect S&P 500 earnings 2.9 per cent below the year-ago quarter, down from the 1.6 per cent year-on-year decline seen on Jan. 1, per Refinitiv.

"The Fed will take apart earnings reports and look at how the economy is doing, given the rate hikes and other issues out there," Ghriskey said. "We're getting closer to that point where the Fed sees enough progress in the inflation fight to stop the (interest) rate hikes and that's why the markets have reacted positively lately."

Economic data showed shallower-than-expected contraction in the manufacturing and services sector in the first weeks of the year, suggesting that the Federal Reserve's restrictive interest rates are dampening demand.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 104.4 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 33,733.96, the S&P 500 lost 2.86 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 4,016.95 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 30.14 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 11,334.27.

Among the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, industrials led the percentage gainers, while communication services suffered the biggest loss.

Intercontinental Exchange Inc, owner of the New York Stock Exchange, dropped 2.2 per cent as SEC investigators searched for the cause of Tuesday's opening bell confusion.

Alphabet Inc shares dipped 2.1 per cent after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Google for abusing its dominance of the digital advertising business.

Industrial conglomerates 3M Co and General Electric Co both provided underwhelming forward guidance due to inflationary headwinds.

3M's shares lost 6.2 per cent while General Electric's rose 1.2 per cent.

Aerospace/defence companies Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Technologies Corp were a study in contrasts, with the former issuing a disappointing profit forecast and the latter beating estimates on solid travel demand.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were up 1.8 per cent and 3.3 per cent, respectively.

Railroad operator Union Pacific Corp missed profit estimates as labor shortages and severe weather delayed shipments. Its shares shed 3.3 per cent.

Microsoft gained more than four per cent in extended trading after narrowly missing quarterly revenue estimates.