Tuesday, Mar 20, 2018
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Stock Market

US stock indexes close mostly up; New highs for S&P 500, Dow

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    U.S. stocks edged mostly higher in early trading Tuesday, as investors sized up the latest company earnings and deal news. Gains by banks and health care companies outweighed losses among technology companies. Energy stocks also declined as the price of crude oil headed lower.


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Big-name companies notched gains on Wall Street Tuesday, delivering more records for two of the major stock indexes.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average finished at all-time highs for the second day this week, while a slide in technology stocks pulled the Nasdaq lower. Small-company stocks also lagged.

Banks and other financial stocks led the gainers as the Federal Reserve met to discuss interest rates. The central bank is expected to raise rates for the third time this year on Wednesday, which allows banks to charge more to lend money.



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Technology stocks declined the most. Energy stocks also fell as crude oil prices closed lower. Bitcoin futures fell on their second day of trading.

“It’s another day, another all-time high,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.

The S&P 500 index rose 4.12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,664.11. The Dow gained 118.77 points, or 0.5 percent, to 24,504.80. The Nasdaq lost 12.76 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,862.32. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 3.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,516.12. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Even though inflation has remained low, the Fed has seen a path to gradually raise rates as the economy and labor market have strengthened. While the central bank is widely expected to announce a 0.25 percent increase in short-term interest rates Wednesday, investors will be listening for any hints that the Fed could pick up its pace on rate hikes next year.

“There’s a chance at the meeting tomorrow they’re going to be showing four rate hikes next year in their forecast as opposed to three, where it had been in September,” Nick said. “So this is seen as a not just sort of a one-off hike like we’ve had in the past, but a continuation of a quarterly cadence of rate hikes.”

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England will have policy announcements on Thursday. Neither is expected to change rates, leaving the focus on their economic forecasts.

The prospect of another short-term interest rate hike helped lift bank shares. Goldman Sachs Group rose $7.55, or 3 percent, to $257.68.

The latest batch of corporate earnings, outlooks and deal news also helped move markets Tuesday.

Several shopping mall owners closed higher after Australian company Westfield agreed to be bought by France’s Unibail-Rodamco for $15.7 billion. Macerich gained $3.18, or 5 percent, to $66.47, while Simon Property Group rose $4.09, or 2.5 percent, to $166.35. GGP picked up 38 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $23.77.

Comcast rose 2.8 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported that the cable TV and entertainment company was no longer in talks to buy parts of 21st Century Fox. Comcast added $1.07 to $39.51. The Journal also reported that Disney is in talks with Fox and that a deal could be announced this week. Fox shares gained 44 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $34.10.

Urban Outfitters rose after the retailer issued a positive update on its fourth-quarter sales. The stock added 11 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $32.38.

The latest quarterly snapshot from Casey’s General Stores put traders in a selling mood. The retailer slumped 11.6 percent after its second-quarter profit fell short of analysts’ estimates. The stock gave up $14.07 to $107.18.

Edison International fell 6 percent after the utility said it believes authorities are looking into the possibility that wildfires in California started at one of its facilities. Edison shares slid $4.40 to $68.58.

Technology stocks, which have been the best performing sector this year with a gain of 37 percent, made up a big portion of the laggards. Micron Technology slid $1.15, or 2.7 percent, to $41.86.

Energy prices fell. Benchmark U.S. crude slid 85 cents, or 1.5 percent, to settle at $57.14 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard for oil, shed $1.35, or 2.1 percent, to close at $63.34 per barrel in London.

The decline in oil prices weighed on energy sector stocks. Cabot Oil & Gas shed 73 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $27.60.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $1.70 a gallon. Heating oil shed 2 cents to $1.93 a gallon. Natural gas fell 15 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $5.20, or 0.4 percent, to $1,241.70 an ounce. Silver dropped 12 cents to $15.67 an ounce. Copper added a penny to $3.02 a pound.

The dollar rose to 113.58 Japanese yen from 113.52 yen late Monday. The euro fell to $1.1737 from $1.1786.

Bitcoin futures fell $525, or 2.8 percent, to $18,020 on the Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $17,246 in late-afternoon trading on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.41 percent from 2.39 percent late Monday.

Major stock indexes in Europe rose. Germany’s DAX gained 0.5 percent, while the CAC 40 of France added 0.8 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.4 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong shed 0.6 percent. The S&P ASX 200 added 0.3 percent. India’s Sensex dropped 0.7 percent. Other regional markets were mostly lower.

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