US STOCKS-Wall St steady with investors cautious ahead of earnings

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US STOCKS-Wall St steady with investors cautious ahead of earnings

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)

* American Airlines up on smaller-than-expected Q3 loss forecast

* Tesla rises on record China-made vehicle sales in September

* Indexes: Dow down 0.1%, S&P 500 down 0.03%, Nasdaq up 0.1% (New throughout, updates to late afternoon, changes byline, adds dateline)

NEW YORK, Oct 12 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed in afternoon trading on Tuesday as investors remained cautious in the run up to third-quarter earnings, while a jump in Tesla shares helped support the market.

Adding to investor uncertainty, the Federal Reserve will release minutes on Wednesday from its last policy meeting, and investors are looking for further clues on when the central bank could begin tapering its massive bond-buying program.

Earnings unofficially kick off on Wednesday with results from some big banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. Its shares were 0.6%, while the S&P 500 banks index was down 0.4%.

Analysts expect to see strong U.S. profit growth for the third quarter, but investors are worried about the impact of supply chain problems and higher prices on Corporate America as businesses emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. A number of companies have warned of issues heading into the reporting period.

“The market is in a slump right now, and I suspect the reason is investors are waiting for the earnings parade, which begins tomorrow,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

“There will be some erosion of earnings, but… nothing detrimental,” he said. But “the market remains cautious, and if earnings should disappoint, we could sell off even further.”

Communications services and technology sectors led the day’s declines. At the same time, Tesla gained 2.4% after data showed the electric vehicle maker sold 56,006 China-made vehicles in September, the highest since it started production in Shanghai about two years ago.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 31.28 points, or 0.09%, to 34,464.78, the S&P 500 lost 1.22 points, or 0.03%, to 4,359.97 and the Nasdaq Composite added 8.30 points, or 0.06%, to 14,494.50.

Also rising were shares of American Airlines Group, which on Tuesday estimated a smaller-than-expected adjusted loss for the third quarter and signaled improved bookings for the rest of the year.

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said the central bank has all but met its employment goal to move ahead with reducing its bond buying program.

Investors also will closely monitor Wednesday’s consumer price index data for September.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.63-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.46-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 39 new highs and 84 new lows. (Additional reporting by Devik Jain, Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru and Federica Urso in Gdansk; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Arun Koyyur and David Gregorio)