January 21st, 2017

US stock indexes veer slightly higher in afternoon trading

By Alex Veiga, The Associated Press on January 11, 2017.

FILE - This July 16, 2013, file photo, shows a Wall Street street sign outside the New York Stock Exchange. The major U.S. stock indexes edged higher in early trading Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, as investors looked ahead to the start of corporate earnings reports later in the week. Energy stocks led the gainers as crude oil prices headed higher, while phone and real estate stocks lagged the most. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The major U.S. stock indexes veered slightly higher in late-afternoon trading after spending much of the day wavering between small gains and losses. Energy stocks led the gainers as crude oil prices closed higher. Health care stocks were down the most after President-elect Donald Trump said the government needs to overhaul how it buys drugs from pharmaceutical companies.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 68 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 19,923 as of 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 3 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,272. The Nasdaq composite index gained 5 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,557. The Nasdaq has closed at a record high the past four days in a row.

THE QUOTE: The stock indexes have been drifting between small gains and losses for much of the day, likely because investors are looking ahead to the next wave of corporate earnings reports, which kick off Friday, noted Tim Dreiling, regional investment director for U.S. Bank’s Private Client Reserve.

“The heavy load comes in the coming weeks,” Dreiling said. “There’s a little bit of a wait-and-see on what those earnings numbers look like.”

TRUMP FACTOR: During a press conference Wednesday morning, Trump said the government has to create new bidding procedures for the pharmaceutical industry “because they’re getting away with murder.” The remarks sent health care stocks broadly lower. Several pharmaceutical companies slumped, with Endo International falling 7.6 per cent, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The stock slid $1.16 to $14.15. Perrigo lost $6.33, or 7.6 per cent, to $77.33. Mallinckrodt tumbled $3.24, or 6 per cent, to $50.51.

UNAPPETIZING RESULTS: SuperValu slid 7.1 per cent after the grocery store operator announced a weak third-quarter profit, partly because of falling food prices. The stock shed 34 cents to $4.45.

SALES SLUMP: Signet Jewelers fell 3.5 per cent after the company cut its profit forecast for the fourth quarter and current fiscal year. Signet said its total sales fell 5 per cent over the holidays, citing technical problems at its e-commerce business. The stock fell $3.09 to $84.37.

DISAPPOINTING FORECAST: Auto parts supplier BorgWarner was down 1.7 per cent after it issued a profit and sales forecast that fell short of what Wall Street was anticipating. The stock shed 69 cents to $40.08.

FASTER IS BETTER: Drugmaker Merck rose 2.3 per cent on news that the Food and Drug Administration will do a quick review of one of the company’s drugs for its potential to treat a type of lung cancer. The stock added $1.41 at $61.33.

HEALTHY OUTLOOK: Intuitive Surgical gained 2.4 per cent after the robotic surgical systems maker delivered a strong fourth-quarter sales forecast. The stock rose $15.86 to $678.06.

EARNINGS SEASON: Big U.S. companies start reporting fourth-quarter earnings this week. On Friday JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America release their results. Still, investors had their eye on a few companies that released quarterly results Wednesday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 per cent, while France’s CAC 40 was essentially flat. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2 per cent. In Asia, a strong earnings forecast from Samsung Electronics helped drive gains on the South Korean stock market, where the Kospi added 1.5 per cent and hit its highest close in over a year. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8 per cent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.43, or 2.8 per cent, to close at $52.25 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, gained $1.46, or 2.7 per cent, at $55.10 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added 5 cents to $1.59 a gallon and heating oil rose 4 cents to $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas futures slipped 5 cents to $3.22 per 1,000 cubic feet.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.37 per cent from 2.38 per cent late Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The pound continued to weaken amid concern that Britain might break off completely from the European Union’s single market. The currency was trading at $1.2201, up from $1.2163 the day before. The dollar fell to 115.49 yen from 115.73 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.0575 from $1.0560.

METALS: The price of gold rose $11.10 to $1,196.60 an ounce. Silver slipped 2 cents to $16.83 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.61 a pound.

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