Wall Street Slips After Mixed Start

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are slipping Friday after a mixed start to earnings reporting season.

The S&P 500 was 0.6% lower in early trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 192 points, or 0.5%, as of 9:40 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.8% lower.

JPMorgan Chase fell 3.7% despite reporting stronger profit for the first three months of the year than analysts expected. The nation's largest bank gave a forecast for a key source of income this year that fell below Wall Street's estimate. That helped overshadow some better-than-expected profit reports from other big banks, including Citigroup, which rose 1.5%.

The pressure is always on companies to produce fatter profits. But it's particularly acute now given worries that the other main lever that sets stock prices, interest rates, may not offer much lift in the near term.

A stream of reports this year has shown that both inflation and the overall economy remain hotter than expected. Fears about inflation staying stubbornly high have forced traders to scale back drastically their forecasts for how many times the Federal Reserve may cut its main interest rate this year. Traders are largely betting on just two, according to data from CME Group, down from forecasts for at least six at the start of the year.

Stock prices had already run up to records in part on expectations for such cuts. Without easier interest rates, companies will need to produce bigger profits to justify their stock prices, which critics say are already too expensive by various measures.

This year's jump in oil prices has further raised worries, because it could add further pressure on inflation. They rose again Friday as tensions continue to roil the Middle East. Israel has said it could strike Iran directly if it launched an attack from its territory following the killings of Iranian generals in a blast at the Iranian consulate in Syria.

A barrel of benchmark U.S. crude gained 3% to $87.55. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 2.2% to $91.67 and is back to where it was in October.

At the same time, Treasury yields in the bond market sank and the price of gold rose, which is typical when investors are herding into investments seen as safer.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.51% from 4.58%. Gold, which has been setting records, rose 1.7% to $2,411.90 per ounce.

On Wall Street, Wells Fargo gained 0.2% after it beat Wall Street profit targets. It was Wells' first earnings report since the Biden administration eased some of the restrictions on the bank after a series of scandals.

Banks are leading off a reporting season where analysts are forecasting companies in the S&P 500 to deliver a third straight quarter of growth, according to FactSet.

In stock markets abroad, indexes were higher across much of Europe and mostly lower in Asia.