Thursday, Feb 22, 2018
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Stock Market

US stocks head mostly lower as early gains fade

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    U.S. stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses in early trading Thursday after several big companies reported disappointing quarterly results or outlooks.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The major U.S. stock indexes closed mostly lower Thursday after a midday gain faded by late afternoon.

Retailers, restaurant chains and other consumer-focused companies accounted for much of the market’s pullback. The losses outweighed solid gains by financial stocks, which got a boost as climbing bond yields set the stage for higher interest rates on mortgages and other loans.

Even though January was the best month for the stock market since March 2016, the swift rise in the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is a benchmark for interest rates, has stoked investor worries that higher rates could dampen company earnings and hurt equity prices.

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“Good earnings alone or maybe great earnings alone won’t move the stock market up,” said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management. “We got to have a pause in the rate of increase in interest rates for the uptrend to resume.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.83 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,821.98. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 37.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 26,186.71. The Nasdaq composite lost 25.62 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,385.86. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4.88 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,579.87.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 2.79 percent from 2.71 percent late Wednesday.

The prospect for stronger economic growth, both in the U.S. and abroad, has helped drive bond yields higher in recent months. This week yields have hovered at the highest level since April 2014. Rising yields make bonds more appealing to investors seeking income, but they can also lead to higher financing costs for companies, homebuyers and other borrowers.

Those higher borrowing costs can also help lift profits for banks, credit card issuers and other types of lenders. That gave a boost to financial stocks Thursday. Lincoln National climbed $3.11, or 3.8 percent, to $85.91.

Investors continued to sift through a raft of corporate earnings reports Thursday.

About a third of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported results so far this earnings season, and some 65 percent of those have delivered both earnings and revenue that exceeded financial analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“From an earnings standpoint, the season has been really good and really strong,” said David Lyon, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “While the numbers look good, there have been a couple of weak spots, but overall, when we look back, it’s going to be a really strong earnings season.”

Several companies rose after posting strong quarterly results or outlooks.

Qorvo led all gainers in the S&P 500, jumping $11.57, or 16.1 percent, to $83.34. Facebook rose 3.3 percent a day after the social media company posted strong quarter results. The stock added $6.20 to $193.09.

Shares in eBay vaulted 13.8 percent after the e-commerce company gave a strong forecast for the current quarter. The stock picked up $5.61 to $46.19.

Companies that reported disappointing results weighed on the market.

United Parcel Service slumped 6.1 percent after the packaged delivery company said that higher costs affected its business in the fourth quarter. The stock lost $7.81 to $119.51.

PayPal slid 8.1 percent after eBay said it would move to a different payment processor. PayPal shares tumbled more than any other company in the S&P 500, shedding $6.92 to $78.40.

Hershey’s latest quarterly results also fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Shares in the maker of KitKat chocolate bars and Twizzlers candy fell $6.56, or 5.9 percent, to $103.77.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.07, or 1.7 percent, to settle at $65.80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 76 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $69.65 per barrel in London.

The rise in oil prices helped lift some energy sector stocks. Schlumberger added $1.93, or 2.6 percent, to $75.51.

In other futures trading, natural gas slumped 14 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $2.86 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.90 a gallon and heating oil rose 2 cents to $2.09 a gallon.

Gold rose $4.80 to $1,347.90 an ounce. Silver dropped 9 cents to $17.16 an ounce. Copper added 1 cent to $3.21 a pound.

The dollar rose to $109.42 yen from 109.11 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.2502 from $1.2410.

The price of bitcoin fell 9.7 percent to $9,178 as of 4:58 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. Bitcoin futures on the Cboe Futures Exchange slid 8.8 percent to settle at $9,080.

Major stock indexes in Europe declined. Germany’s DAX lost 1.4 percent, while France’s CAC 40 slid 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent.

Markets in Asia finished mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.7 percent and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.8 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent.

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