* GE weighs on S&P after reporting negative cash flow
* Oil prices on track for biggest weekly drop in a month
* First round of French election to be held on Sunday
* Indexes down: Dow 0.08 pct, S&P 0.22 pct, Nasdaq 0.08 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Tanya Agrawal
April 21 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged lower in early afternoon trading on Friday as investors held off from making risky bets ahead of the first round of the closely contested French presidential election.
Centrist Emmanuel Macron is leading most opinion polls for Sunday’s election and is expected to contest a second-round run-off with Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-European Union and anti-immigrant National Front.
“Although Macron has been labeled as favorite to become the next French President, an unexpected Marine Le Pen victory could deal a symbolic blow to the unity of the European Union and ultimately create a tidal wave of risk aversion,” FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga said in a note.
After a two-week losing streak, major indexes are on track to post weekly gains following Thursday’s rally, which was driven by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments that the Trump administration would unveil a tax reform plan very soon.
A steady stream of strong earnings through the week continued to bolster market sentiment.
Of the 95 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through Friday morning, about 75 percent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 71 percent average for the past four quarters.
Overall, profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 11.2 percent in the quarter, the best since 2011.
At 12:36 a.m. ET (1636 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 15.6 points, or 0.08 percent, at 20,563.11, the S&P 500 was down 5.33 points, or 0.22 percent, at 2,350.51 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 4.97 points, or 0.08 percent, at 5,911.81.
Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the telecommunications index’s 1.15 percent fall leading the decliners.
Shares of General Electric fell 2.1 percent to $29.64 after the company reported negative cash flow from its industrial operations in the first quarter. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.
Schlumberger was down 2.9 percent at $74.31 after the oilfield services provider warned that margins would remain under pressure as it spends more to bring back idled equipment.
Mattel fell as much as 11.8 percent to an 18-month low of $22.22 after the toymaker reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss.
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC that the central bank remains on track for two more interest rate increases this year.
Oil prices tumbled, on track for the biggest weekly drop in a month on renewed concerns that increasing U.S. production and high inventories will thwart OPEC’s attempts to reduce the global crude glut.
U.S. crude futures fell below $50 per barrel for the first time in two weeks.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,646 to 1,147. On the Nasdaq, 1,716 issues fell and 999 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed 25 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 66 new highs and 25 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Anil D’Silva)