U.S. Markets closed

Wall Street cuts losses to close flat; Alphabet jumps after hours

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Caroline Valetkevitch

(Reuters) - Strong gains in Facebook (FB.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) helped Wall Street cut losses and stage a late-day rally, with major indexes closing near the unchanged mark.

Alphabet rose up 1.2 percent at $770.77 ahead of its results. After the bell, the Internet giant's stock jumped 9 percent and the company became the most valuable in the United States, surpassing the market cap of Apple (AAPL.O).

Twitter (TWTR.N) jumped 6.6 percent at $17.91 after talk of a private equity deal.

Stocks had been lower earlier in the day as weak Chinese economic data added to concerns about a global slowdown and oil prices resumed their slide. The manufacturing sector in the world's second-largest economy contracted in January at the fastest pace since 2012.

"Maybe people were relieved that there wasn't a selloff and that kind of brought some buyers into the market," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer, North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.

"I think people are starting to focus on upcoming earnings rather than lower oil and China news."

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) was down 17.12 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,449.18, the S&P 500 (.SPX) had lost 0.86 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,939.38 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) had added 6.41 points, or 0.14 percent, to 4,620.37.

Slammed by collapsing oil prices, stocks have been volatile since the start of the year. Coming off the worst January since 2009, the S&P 500 is down 5.1 percent for the year.

Traders now expect the Fed to scale back the number of rate hikes this year. They are pricing in only a 17-percent chance that the Fed will raise rates in March, according to CME Group's FedWatch.

Fourth-quarter S&P 500 earnings are expected to have fallen 4.1 percent from a year ago, though that percentage has improved since last week, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N) was up 4.3 percent at $472.64. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said E.coli outbreaks that affected the burrito chain's customers last year appeared to be over.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,556 to 1,503, for a 1.04-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,418 issues fell and 1,410 advanced.

The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 26 new highs and 97 new lows.

About 8.0 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 9.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Don Sebastian and Nick Zieminski)