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Wall Street ends flat in late flurry of buying

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks erased losses in a late flurry of buying to end little changed on Tuesday as overall optimism about earnings offset disappointing results from blue chips 3M and Johnson & Johnson.

About 70 percent of S&P companies so far have beaten estimates, but worries about inflation cutting into profits have caused investors to jump on shares of companies that only produce spectacular results.

Stocks were lower for most of Tuesday’s trading. Shares of 3M Co (MMM.N) fell 2 percent to $88.50 after results barely topped estimates and the manufacturer warned rising raw material costs would pressure its bottom line.

“Today the market is simply a little tired and overbought,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville.

“But selling has been ineffective, including today; the benefit of the doubt has to go to the bullish case.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI finished down 3.33 points, or 0.03 percent, at 11,977.19. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX was up 0.34 point, or 0.03 percent, at 1,291.18. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 1.70 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,719.25.

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