Thursday 23 November, 2017

US stocks dip with energy prices; European stocks sink

U.S. stocks finished barely lower Friday as energy companies fell with oil prices and a 10-day rally for technology companies came to an end. But Wall Street mostly avoided the sharp losses that hit European stocks.

The price of U.S. crude oil fell 2.5 percent and pulled energy stocks lower. Technology companies slipped, ending their longest winning streak in more than two years.

Investors bought government bonds in the U.S. and Europe, which sent prices higher and yields lower. With yields down, investors who wanted income bought shares in companies that pay big dividends, such as utilities and household goods makers.

European stocks took sharp losses after Reuters reported that the European Central Bank will consider paring back its stimulus programs in late October. Indexes in France, Germany and Italy all fell, and so did the blue chip Euro Stoxx 50 index.

"Europe is the economy that makes people the most nervous," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. "It's one that is still being treated with caution."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index shipped 0.91 of a point to 2,472.54. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 31.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,580.07. Earlier it shed as many as 108 points. The Nasdaq composite lost 2.25 points to 6,387.75. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks sank 6.52 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,435.84. Still, all four indexes remain near record highs.

General Electric skidded after it disappointed investors by saying it expects to reach only the low end of its annual profit forecast range. GE said its power unit struggled in the second quarter and low oil prices are also hurting its business.

The stock fell 78 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $25.91. It's down 18 percent this year. Also falling was oilfield services company Baker Hughes, which is combined with GE's oil and gas unit this month and is now mostly owned by GE. It shed 85 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $34.12.

Baker Hughes was one of a horde of energy companies that fell with oil prices. Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.15 to $45.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, shed $1.24, or 2.5 percent, to $48.06 a barrel in London.

Over the last few weeks investors have focused what the European Central Bank will do as the European economy continues to improve. Kinahan, of TD Ameritrade, added that the central bank also hasn't done much to address the way the euro has risen over that time.

"The ECB didn't take an aggressive stand on the currency move that's already happened," he said. He added that has left some investors thinking the euro will get even stronger, which would make European goods more expensive in other markets and affect the earnings and sales of companies based in the EU.

On Friday the euro rose to $1.1677 from $1.1626. It hasn't been this strong compared to the dollar since the beginning of 2015. The German DAX lost 1.7 percent and France's CAC 40 shed 1.6 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain shed 0.5 percent.

European bond prices jumped and yields tumbled. Investors also bought U.S. government bonds, which sent prices higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.24 percent from 2.26 percent.

Software giant Microsoft's fourth-quarter profit and sales surpassed Wall Street estimates as the company posted another round of strong results from its cloud computing business. However, its stock dipped 43 cents to $73.79.

Also falling was chipmaker Texas Instruments, which lost 99 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $81.70. E-commerce company eBay fell 57 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $36.61. Payment processor Visa added $1.49, or 1.5 percent, to $99.60 after its latest report showed its purchase of Visa Europe a year ago is strengthening its business.

Still, a 10-day run for the Nasdaq and technology companies came to an end. The S&P 500 technology index climbed more than 6 percent over that time and reached record highs. The rally was assisted by the weakening dollar, which helps sales and earnings overseas. Investors also bet that technology companies would have another round of strong quarterly earnings.

Elsewhere, financial companies did relatively well after some solid quarterly reports. Credit card issuer Capital One Financial leaped $6.93, or 8.6 percent, to $87.94 after it beat Wall Street estimates in the second quarter. E-Trade Financial gained $2.03, or 5.1 percent, to $41.63 and Moody's added $5.40, or 4.2 percent, to $132.57.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Heating oil lost 3 cents to $1.52 a gallon. Natural gas slid 7 cents to $2.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold added $9.40 to $1,254.90 an ounce. Silver rose 11 cents to $16.46 an ounce. Copper picked up 1 cent to $2.72 a pound.

The dollar slid to 111.04 yen from 111.99 yen.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 of Japan slipped 0.2 percent and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched down less than 0.1 percent.