By Sinéad Carew
NEW YORK, April 25 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 was clinging to a small gain on Thursday as concerns about slowing global growth and a dive in industrials stocks overshadowed gains in Facebook and Microsoft.
The industrials sector fell 1.6% due to sharp declines in 3M MMM.N, United Parcel Service Inc UPS.N, Raytheon Co RTN.N and Fedex Corp FDX.N after disappointing results.
On the other hand, Facebook Inc FB.O rose 6% and Microsoft Corp MSFT.O climbed 3.5% after the technology heavyweights reported better-than-expected results.
"Sentiment is fluctuating as a result of mixed messages from earnings and data. We're going to continue to see (market) fluctuations because we're likely to continue to see mixed messages," said Kristina Hooper, chiefglobal marketstrategist, Invesco in New York, who also cited high jobless claims and weak South Korean data.
"But we have to keep in mind that supporting all this is a far more accommodative U.S. Federal Reserve than in the fourth quarter that's likely to place a cushion under stocks," said Hooper. "It's not a time to rush into stocks but it's not a time to rush out."
The S&P 500 .SPX has rallied almost 17% so far this year, rebounding from a late-2018 slump, on hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal, the Fed's move to pause interest rate hikes and some better than expected earnings reports.
The index was last about 0.3% below its record high hit in late September, and has struggled to break above that level as investors await more positive catalysts.
At 2:43 p.m. EDT (1843 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 80.64 points, or 0.3%, at 26,516.41, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 4.82 points, or 0.16%, at 2,932.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 32.25 points, or 0.4%, at 8,134.26.
Refinitiv data through Thursday morning showed that Wall Street now expects S&P 500 first-quarter earnings to be level with the year-ago quarter, a sharp improvement from the 1.1% decline expected just on Wednesday, and better than the 2% fall expected at the start of April. Excluding energy, the growth rate would climb to 1.4%.
Gains in social media company Facebook lifted the communication services index .SPLRCL1.3%, making that the biggest gainer among the 11 major S&P sectors.
But 3M, down almost 13%, was on track for its biggest one-day percentage drop in over three decades, after it cut its 2019 earnings view and announced plans to lay off 2,000 workers.
The top gainer on the S&P 500 was Lam Research LRCX.O, which jumped 5% as the semiconductor equipment maker reported better-than-expected quarterly results.
Xilinx Inc XLNX.O tumbled 17.3% after the chipmaker's quarterly gross margins fell short of estimates. The Philadelphia chip index .SOX dropped 1.7%.
Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O, set to report after the market close, was up 0.7%.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.57-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.32-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and four new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 51 new highs and 47 new lows.
(Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Anil D'Silva and Jonathan Oatis)
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