Stocks were tentatively higher in early trading as investors reacted to earnings reports from big names that included Microsoft (MSFT) and American Express (AXP). However, the major averages never gained much upside momentum and whatever they did have was short-circuited by reports that Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, bringing the simmering tensions with the Mideast nation back to the forefront. Stocks closed out the week with a down session as earnings volume gets set to ramp-up significantly in the next two weeks.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., consumer sentiment inched up 0.2 points to 98.4 in the preliminary July reading from the University of Michigan. In energy news, Baker Hughes reported that the U.S. rig count is down 4 rigs from last week to 954.
TOP NEWS: Shares of Boeing (BA) rose 4.5% after the company announced last night that it will record an after-tax charge of $4.9B, or $8.74 per share, in connection with an estimate of potential concessions and other considerations to customers for disruptions related to the 737 MAX grounding and associated delivery delays. This charge will result in a $5.6B reduction of revenue and pre-tax earnings in the quarter, but analysts generally expressed the opinion that the added clarity is a positive for the stock.
In earnings news, Microsoft is widening its lead over Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) as the most valuable U.S. company by market cap after its better than expected quarterly report last night. Shares of the tech giant were fractionally higher after Microsoft reported EPS and revenue in all segments that was near the high end of guidance and above consensus estimates. American Express, which reported earnings and revenue that topped forecasts and backed its full-year profit outlook, fell 2.8% following its report.
Meanwhile, Walmart (WMT) was in focus after CNBC reported that the retail giant is shuffling its executives to further integrate its store and digital operations and leadership. Walmart will bring the U.S. supply chain teams together, which will be lead by Greg Smith, the current EVO of the Walmart U.S. supply chain. Smith will report to Greg Foran, who runs the U.S. stores, and Marc Lore, head of Walmart's U.S. e-commerce business, according to a memo seen by CNBC.
Additionally, Disney (DIS) said that its live-action remake of "The Lion King" posted $23M in Thursday evening previews at the domestic box office, where it opens in over 4,700 theaters today.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Gannett (GCI), which surged 19.75% after the Wall Street Journal reported that it is near a cash-and-stock deal to merge with GateHouse Media. Also higher were Crowdstrike (CRWD) and Skechers (SKX), which gained a respective 14.8% and 12% after reporting quarterly results.
Among the notable losers was Pacific Biosciences (PACB), which slid 9.35% after the United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority said last night that it has concerns that the proposed $1.2B merger with Illumina (ILMN) "could remove potentially the most significant competitive threat to Illumina." The deal will be referred for an in-depth Phase 2 investigation, the CMA stated. Also lower was Chewy (CHWY), which fell 6.6% after issuing its first quarterly report since coming public.
INDEXES: The Dow fell 68.77, or 0.25%, to 27,154.20, the Nasdaq lost 60.75, or 0.74%, to 8,146.49, and the S&P 500 declined 18.50, or 0.62%, to 2,976.61.