* IBM shares fall after results, Netflix rallies
* Investors look ahead to ECB meeting
* Crude oil rises but still sharply down for week
* Indexes: Dow down 0.1 pct, S&P up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct (Updates to open of U.S. trading)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were flat on Wednesday as reports that new stimulative measures would be announced by the European Central Bank, though a tepid outlook from IBM limited the day’s gains.
Market participants have been looking for more aggressive measures from central banks to combat the risk of deflation that has grown alongside a drop in oil prices. The ECB’s Executive Board has proposed a quantitative easing program that would see the ECB buy roughly 50 billion euros ($58 billion) in bonds per month for a minimum of a year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
“The timing and duration of bond purchases is just as important as the actual amount, if not more important,” said Clem Miller, portfolio manager of Wilmington International Funds in Baltimore.
“There are also a lot of questions about asset distribution, since the market is expecting a lot of government bond purchases, and it would be disappointed if it was more slanted to corporate bonds.”
Tech shares fell 0.5 percent as the weakest sector of the day. Late Tuesday, International Business Machines Corp reported lower-than-expected revenues and gave a 2015 profit target below estimates. Shares of the Dow component fell 1.9 percent to $154.10 as one of the biggest decliners on the S&P 500.
While IBM was the biggest drag on the Dow, losses in the blue-chip index were limited after UnitedHealth Group Inc’s fourth-quarter earnings topped expectations, sending shares up 2.7 percent to $108.43.
Netflix Inc jumped 17 percent to $407.33 a day after the streaming and rental video company said it was growing faster overseas than previously expected, offsetting slower U.S. growth. Adjusted profit was much stronger than expected.
With 8 percent of S&P 500 companies reporting earnings, 75 percent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data. About 52 percent beat on revenue.
Energy shares bucked a recent trend of weakness, rising 1.1 percent alongside a jump of 2.4 percent in crude oil prices. Despite the commodity’s rise, it remains sharply lower for the week, near multi-year lows, after dropping nearly 5 percent on Tuesday. Halliburton Co rose 1 percent to $40.22 while Marathon Oil rose 1.4 percent to $26.34.
Qualcomm Inc fell 2.5 percent to $70.70 after Bloomberg reported Samsung Electronics Co Ltd would not use Qualcomm’s processors for the next flagship Galaxy S smartphone.
At 10:06 a.m. (1506 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average fell 23.09 points, or 0.13 percent, to 17,492.14, the S&P 500 gained 3.02 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,025.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.01 points, or 0.11 percent, to 4,659.86.
NYSE advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1,721 to 979, for a 1.76-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,167 issues rose and 1,013 fell, for a 1.15-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The S&P 500 was posting 23 new 52-week highs and 7 lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 22 new highs and 31 lows. (Editing by Nick Zieminski)