Stocks veering between gains and losses in afternoon trade

Stocks veering between gains and losses in afternoon trade
The Associated Press

U.S. stock indexes veered between gains and losses Wednesday afternoon as the recent run of choppy trading continued. Drugstore chains and health care stocks posted solid gains. Amazon, Netflix and other consumer-services and technology companies weighed on the market. Energy stocks fell in tandem with oil prices.

KEEPING SCORE: After wobbling between gains and losses for much of the day, the benchmark S&P 500 index was down 1 point, or 0.1 percent, at 2,610 as of 2:29 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 23,881. The Nasdaq composite slid 42 points, or 0.6 percent, to 6,965. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,514. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

THE QUOTE: “Tech has had such a tremendous run-up and has outperformed some of the other sectors,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. “There may be other areas now that are more attractive, and we’ve seen some strength recently in some of the more defensive-oriented sectors.”

TECH IN TROUBLE: Losses in technology companies, which led the market’s steep sell-off on Tuesday, continued to weigh on the market Wednesday. Software company Red Hat slid $7.90, or 5.1 percent, to $146.52. Facebook, which has taken a beating in recent days over privacy concerns, was up 1.1 percent after the social media giant said it is giving its privacy tools a makeover. The move is a response to criticisms over its data practices and the prospect of tighter European regulations in the coming months. The stock gained $1.68 to $153.90.

BIG DECLINERS: Consumer goods and services stocks also fell sharply. Amazon lost $66.09, or 4.4 percent, to $1,430.96 after Axios reported that President Trump has wondered aloud whether there is a way to go after the e-commerce giant with antitrust or competition laws. Netflix also declined, shedding $11.32, or 3.8 percent, to $289.37.

ROUGH ROAD: Tesla fell 8.7 percent after Moody’s downgraded the electric car maker’s credit rating. The move piles more pain on Tesla, whose stock has been pummeled by news that authorities will investigate a fatal crash that involved a Tesla electric SUV equipped with a semi-autonomous control system. The stock lost $24.38 to $254.80.

PRESCRIPTION FOR GROWTH: Walgreens Boots Alliance gained 2.6 percent after the largest U.S. drugstore chain reported quarterly earnings and revenue that came in ahead of analysts’ forecasts. The stock rose $1.69 to $67.65. Investors also bid up shares in CVS Health, which climbed $2.12, or 3.5 percent, to $62.72.

TAKEOVER TALK: Irish drugmaker Shire Plc jumped 14 percent after Japanese rival Takeda said it’s considering a takeover offer. Takeda said that buying Shire would enhance its R&D and its reach into the U.S. Shire’s U.S.-listed shares climbed $18.10 to $146.97.

A GOOD STRETCH: Lululemon Athletica jumped 10.5 percent after the seller of premium yoga wear reported strong results for its fourth quarter and also released an upbeat outlook. The stock gained $8.25 to $86.96.

WINNING DECOR: Shares in RH, the operator of Restoration Hardware, vaulted 22.3 percent after the home furnishings retailer reported earnings that easily beat analysts’ forecasts. The stock rose $16.80 to $92.11.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 89 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $64.36 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 76 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $68.70 per barrel in London.

The slide in oil prices weighed on energy sector stocks. Occidental Petroleum gave up $2.18, or 3.3 percent, to $63.64.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held at 2.78 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 106.81 yen from 105.54 yen Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2318 from $1.2402.

METALS: Gold fell $17.80, or 1.3 percent, to $1,324.20 an ounce. Silver dropped 29 cents to $16.25 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $3 a pound.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX lost 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 slid 0.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent. Indexes in Asia finished lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.3 percent and South Korea’s Kospi slid 1.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slumped 2.5 percent. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries also fell.

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