U.S. Markets closed

Stocks open little changed; S&P 500 at record high

Steve Rothwell, AP Markets Writer

In this Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 photo, specialists Peter Giacchi, left, and Patrick King confer at a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. After a strong finish on Friday, investors are hoping the stock market rally will continue Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were mixed in early trading Monday, keeping the Standard & Poor's 500 index at a record high, as investors assessed the latest earnings from big U.S. companies.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high last week after getting a boost from technology companies, including Microsoft and Amazon. Stocks have surged this year, in part because companies have been able to keep increasing their earnings even as the economy has failed to escape stall speed.

The S&P 500 was up two points, at 1,761 in early trading. The Dow Jones industrial average was flat at 15,570. The Nasdaq composite was up a point at 3,944.

Third-quarter earnings are expected to rise by about 4.5 percent for S&P 500 companies, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. While that is the slowest rate of growth in a year, companies are still beating the estimates of Wall Street analysts. About two thirds of the companies that have published third-quarter earnings so far have exceeded analysts' expectations.

"The reason we can continue to go higher is because we are beating muted expectations," said JJ Kinahan, an analyst at TDAmeritrade.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 2.51 percent.

In commodities trading, the price of gold rose $2 to $1,354 an ounce. Oil was little changed at $98 a barrel in New York.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Merck fell $1.23, or 2.6 percent, to $45.31 after the company sharply lowered its earnings forecast for the full year. Third-quarter profit plunged 35 percent because of competition from generic drugmakers.