July 16, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Weak oil prices offset Bank of America-led earnings optimism

* Energy stocks fall as crude prices tumble over 2 pct

* Bank of America's strong results lift financials

* Arconic jumps on report of buyout interest from PE firms

* June US retail sales up 0.5 pct, May growth revised higher

* Indexes: Dow up 0.07 pct; S&P down 0.03 pct; Nasdaq up 0.03 pct (Updates to open)

By Amy Caren Daniel

July 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were trading flat on Monday as a sharp drop in crude oil prices weighed on energy companies, offsetting a rebound in financials stocks after Bank of America's strong results reinforced expectations of a strong earnings season.

Benchmark Brent crude dropped 2.9 percent, while U.S. light crude fell 2.6 percent as concerns about supply disruptions eased and Libyan ports reopened, while traders eyed potential supply increases by Russia and other oil producers.

The S&P energy sector fell 1.11 percent, the most among the 11 major S&P sectors. Shares of Chevron and Exxon slid more than 1 percent and were the biggest drags on the benchmark index.

Bank of America rose 2 percent after the second-largest U.S. lender's quarterly profit beat analysts expectations on lower expenses and growth in loans and deposits.

In contrast to a slide on Friday after JPMorgan, Citigroup and Well Fargo reported results, bank stocks gained, leading to a 0.99 percent gain in the financial sector.

With a host of companies expected to report this week, analysts have forecast a near 21 percent surge in second-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Of the 27 S&P companies that have reported earnings through Friday, 85.2 percent have topped earnings expectations, above the 75-percent average of the past four quarters.

"What will be interesting in this earnings season apart from what we know, is what the guidance will sound like, with the trade wars going on and tariffs being put in place," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in New York.

"We are probably going to have some cautious guidance as a lot of the multinational companies would've priced in the bad news."

At 9:55 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 17.00 points, or 0.07 percent, at 25,036.41, the S&P 500 was down 0.93 points, or 0.03 percent, at 2,800.38 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.20 points, or 0.03 percent, at 7,828.18.

The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales increased 0.5 percent in June, boosted by increases in purchases of motor vehicles and a range of other goods.

Data for May was revised higher to show sales rising 1.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.8 percent gain. But the unchanged reading in core retail sales last month likely does not change views that consumer spending accelerated in the second quarter.

Among stocks, shares of Arconic jumped nearly 12 percent on a report that the aerospace-parts maker is the subject of takeover interest from private-equity firms.

J.B. Hunt Transport rose 1.6 percent after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results. The stock was the biggest boost to the Dow Jones Transport index, which was up 0.47 percent.

Netflix rose 1.1 percent ahead of its earnings report, expected after markets close. Amazon.com Inc also gained 0.7 percent as its 'Prime Day' shopping event kicked off.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.51-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.26-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 13 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 40 new highs and 20 new lows. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru)

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