Wall Street edged lower on Wednesday, as concerns over an escalation in the US-China trade war and weak economic indicators persisted, while a raft of upbeat results underlined a solid start to the third-quarter earnings season.
US stocks came under pressure after the US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, while data on Wednesday showed a fall in US retail sales for the first time in seven months in September.
However, investors cheered positive results from Bank of America, which rose 2% after beating analysts' estimates for third-quarter profit.
PNC Financial Services Group Inc and Bank of New York Mellon Corp also rose after better-than-expected earnings.
The reports followed strong earnings on Tuesday from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc, showing consumer confidence remained strong despite recession fears that have led businesses to pull back on spending and borrowing.
"Earnings by and large has been pretty good so far but the China headlines are definitely humming in the background," said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.
"A lot of investor hopes are pinned on some of these tensions abating, because that is a linchpin on why you should own stocks," she added.
Analysts have forecast the worst quarterly earnings season in nearly three years for S&P 500 companies, as domestic economic growth shows signs of slowing on the fallout from the tariff war with China.
Of the 43 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings so far, 86% have topped Wall Street expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Analysts expect market action to turn positive through the session, as optimism from solid earnings reports overshadows mixed political headlines.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.21-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.11-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
At 12:50 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 7.55 points, or 0.03%, at 27,017.25, the S&P 500 was down 5.66 points, or 0.19%, at 2,990.02.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 28.26 points, or 0.35%, at 8,120.44, coming under pressure from a 3.61% fall in shares of Adobe Inc after Citigroup downgraded the Photoshop software maker.
Among other stocks, United Airlines was up 2.5% after the carrier raised its 2019 profit target.
Drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health jumped between 3% and 5% after a report that they were in talks with state and local governments to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits for $18 billion.
General Motors rose 1.8% after the US automaker reached a tentative four-year labor deal with the United Auto Workers union, moving the sides closer to ending the month-long strike.
Investors now await quarterly results from Netflix Inc and International Business Machines, due to report after markets close on Wednesday.The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 30 new highs and 53 new lows.