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Stocks scuffle as slowing auto sales worry Wall Street

By on May 2, 2017

The New Ford Fiesta ST is presented during the press day at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The Motor Show will open its gates to the public from March 9 to 19. (Cyril Zingaro/Keystone via AP)

The New Ford Fiesta ST is presented during the press day at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (Cyril Zingaro/Keystone via AP)

By Marley Jay

NEW YORK — Despite strong results from industrial companies, U.S. stocks couldn’t get any momentum going Tuesday after car makers said their sales are shrinking.

Engine maker Cummins sent manufacturers and other industrial companies higher after reporting solid first-quarter earnings. A late slump took the price of oil to its lowest price in almost six months. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler all fell after they said sales declined in April.

Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Financial Partners, said auto sales have weakened because lenders are growing a bit hesitant to make loans to help people buy cars.

“It’s more a story specific to the auto sector as opposed to a slowdown in consumer spending,” he said.

Thanks to an upturn in the last few minutes of trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2.84 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,391.17. The Dow Jones industrial average added 36.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,949.89. The Nasdaq composite set another record as it picked up 3.76 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,095.37. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks sank 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,399.36.

The six largest auto makers in the U.S. all said their sales fell in April. Vehicle sales have set records the last few years and analysts are worried the streak is ending and car companies are relying too much on discounts and incentives to keep their sales numbers high.

Ford lost 50 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $10.92 and GM gave up $1, or 2.9 percent, to $33.20 while Fiat Chrysler skidded 49 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $10.92. Car retailers, rental companies and parts suppliers slipped as well.

Industrial companies made some of the biggest gains. Cummins reported a far bigger profit and better sales than analysts expected, and its stock climbed $9.23, or 6.1 percent, to $160.56. The company said demand from construction and mining sales grew compared with the same period a year ago, but truck production in North America fell.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.18, or 2.4 percent, to $47.66 a barrel in New York. That’s its lowest price since mid-November. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed $1.06, or 2.1 percent, to $50.46 a barrel in London.

Health care stocks shook off an early loss. Merck climbed after it reported strong sales of newer medications including its cancer drug Keytruda and hepatitis C drug Zepatier, and its stock gained 32 cents to $62.70. Hospital chain Tenet Healthcare jumped $3.31, or 21.6 percent, to $18.66 after it agreed to sell three hospitals to HCA Holdings for $725 million and said it will rejoin insurer Humana’s network.

Technology stocks rose further. The S&P 500’s technology index, which includes 69 major companies, is at its highest levels since March 2000, the peak of the dot-com boom. However it’s still well below the records it set back then.

Apple gained 93 cents to $147.51 during regular trading. Its stock lost 2 percent in aftermarket trading after the company reported results that included slightly disappointing quarterly iPhone sales. Its guidance also wasn’t as strong as investors hoped.

Consumer products companies slipped. Drugstore operator and pharmacy benefits manager CVS Health lost $2.96, or 3.6 percent, to $79 and agricultural company Archer-Daniels-Midland shed $4.06, or 8.9 percent, to $41.67 after their respective earnings reports.

Consumer reviews website Angie’s List soared after it agreed to be bought by media company IAC/InterActiveCorp. IAC/InterActive wants to combine Angie’s List with its business, which offers resources for home repair and improvement projects. The company will be called ANGI Homeservices.

IAC/InterActive offered to buy Angie’s List in 2015 for $8.75 a share, which Angie’s List said was too low. On Tuesday its stock jumped $3.6, or 61.5 percent, to $9.51 and IAC/InterActive rose $12.05, or 14.3 percent, to $96.24.

Health insurer Molina Healthcare fired CEO Mario Molina and chief financial officer John Molina, citing the company’s poor financial performance. The Medicaid administrator was founded by their father, David Molina, who died in 1996. The stock jumped $8.95, or 17.6 percent, to $59.75.

Bond prices headed higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.28 percent from 2.32 percent.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline dipped 1 cent to $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil lost 2 cents to $1.47 a gallon. Natural gas gave up 2 cents to $3.20 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $1.50 to $1,257 an ounce. Silver fell 1 cent to $16.83 an ounce. Copper lost 3 cents to $2.64 a pound.

The dollar rose to 112 yen from 111.83 yen. The euro rose to $1.0928 from $1.0906.

In Greece the Athex composite jumped 3.1 percent after the country and its creditors agreed Greece should make another round of pension cuts in 2019 and commit to a budget target when its current bailout program ends next year. That deal will restart bailout loan payments to Greece, meaning it won’t face default. That could have touched off another eurozone crisis. Other European stocks also rallied. The CAC 40 in France added 0.7 percent while Britain’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.6 percent. In Germany, the DAX rose 0.6 percent.

The Japanese Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.7 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.7 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.3 percent.

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