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US STOCKS-Wall St nearly flat on lackluster earnings

Julia Edwards
Monday, 21 Oct 2013 | 4:54 PM ET

* Netflix shares rise after market close on earnings report

* McDonald's pulls Dow lower; Apple helps Nasdaq tread water

* Solar companies soar

* Indexes: Dow off 0.05 pct, S&P off 0.01 pct, Nasdaq up 0.15 pct

NEW YORK, Oct 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended little changed on Monday as lackluster earnings reports from McDonald's and others fed concerns that equities were overpriced after the S&P index's run to record highs last week.

Investors also showed a reluctance to make aggressive bets ahead of Tuesday's release of U.S. payrolls data for September, which was delayed by the recent government shutdown.

"You could be seeing some profit-taking" after last week's highs, said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners, which manages more than $1 billion in assets in New York. "You could also see some profit-taking off a weak jobs number tomorrow or in advance of the number today."

Netflix shares rose 11 percent in after-hours trading on the release of its earnings report that said the company added 1.3 million U.S. streaming customers in September. Netflix's third quarter net income reached $32 million, up from $8 million a year earlier.

The Dow was lower after McDonald's Corp fell following a weak fourth-quarter outlook. A rally in Apple Inc shares after a brokerage ratings upgrade helped the Nasdaq.

Advancers and decliners were about evenly split on the New York Stock exchange declined.

Though only a small percentage of S&P 500 stocks have reported earnings thus far, the season has been mixed, with revenue growth especially a concern. Still, profits have largely risen and many bellwether companies have topped expectations.

With 21 percent of S&P companies having reported, 61.5 percent have topped profit expectations, a rate slightly above the historical average. But only 52 percent have topped expectations on revenue, below the historical average of 61 percent.

"The push for healthcare is going to be greater as more people age and come online. We just don't know how it's going to affect the bottom line," said Thomas Nyheim, vice president and portfolio manager at Christiana Trust in Greenville, Delaware.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 7.64 points, or 0.05 percent, at 15,392.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 0.14 points, or 0.01 percent, at 1,744.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.77 points, or 0.15 percent, at 3,920.05.

The S&P 500 on Friday capped its biggest weekly gain in three months on stronger-than-expected earnings from Google and Morgan Stanley, as well as a deal in Washington temporarily resolving a political deadlock over the budget and raising the debt-ceiling. The S&P managed a slight gain to again close at a record high.

S&P sectors were mixed, with healthcare stocks making the biggest decline, down 0.6 percent. Nyheim, who manages investments in healthcare stocks, said the sector will be unpredictable until the effects of President Obama's health care law play out.

McDonald's fell 0.6 percent to $94.59 after it reported revenue that missed estimates and warned global October sales could be relatively flat.

Apple boosted the S&P 500 and Nasdaq after Societe Generale lifted its price target on the stock to $575 from $500 and advised clients to buy shares. The stock rose 2.4 percent to $521.30 and was the largest winner on the Nasdaq, adding 7.5 points to the index.

More than 25 percent of the S&P 500 components are due to report this week.

Hasbro Inc jumped 5.2 percent to a new high as both earnings and sales topped expectations.

Solar power companies were among the strongest on Monday, with First Solar Inc up 7.8 percent to $53.88 as the S&P's top percentage gainer. Trina Solar rose 2.7 percent to $17.01.

JPMorgan Chase & Co reached a tentative $13 billion deal with the U.S. government to settle investigations into bad mortgage loans sold to investors by JPMorgan and the banks it bought during the financial crisis. Shares were down 0.1 pct at $54.27.