U.S. stocks drift lower in afternoon trading
U.S. stock indexes drifted lower in late-afternoon trading Thursday, on course for their second loss in two days. Financial stocks fell the most. Energy companies also declined as the price of U.S. crude oil closed lower. Utilities, real estate stocks and phone companies, all known for paying high dividends, rose as bond yields fell. Trading was light ahead of the New Year’s Day holiday.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 19,827 as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,247. The Nasdaq composite lost 12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,426. Small-company stocks also veered lower. The Russell 2000 gave up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,359. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
THE QUOTE: “The market is just taking a breather here,” said Jeff Zipper, managing director of investments for The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. “We moved so much in the month of November, there may be some profit-taking, maybe positioning for the first quarter.”
BIG GAINER: Newmont Mining climbed 6.6 percent, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. The stock added $2.17 to $34.96.
DOWN THE MOST: Chipotle Mexican Grill slid $10.01, or 2.6 percent, to $375.36, on pace for the steepest loss in the S&P 500 index.
FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Sears jumped 7.6 percent after the struggling retailer said it obtained a letter of credit that the company can use to fund its operations. The stock gained 62 cents to $8.80.
UNEMPLOYMENT WATCH: The Labor Department said fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a nearly two-year trend that suggests a solid job market. Weekly requests for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. Over the past year, the number of people collecting benefits has fallen almost 5 percent to 2.1 million.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was 0.2 percent lower. Britain’s FTSE 100 ended the day with its second record-close in two days, trading 0.2 percent higher at 7,120.26 points. British stocks have benefited from a decline in the value of the pound against other world currencies, which tends to drive up earnings for the multinationals and energy companies that dominate the index. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.3 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi inched up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 29 cents to close at $53.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to close at $56.14 a barrel in London. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline added a penny to $1.68 a gallon and heating oil held steady at $1.70 a gallon.
METALS: The price of gold rose $17.20, or 1.5 percent, to $1,158.10 an ounce. Silver added 18 cents to $16.22 an ounce. Copper fell a penny to $2.49 a pound.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.47 percent from 2.51 percent late Wednesday. In currency trading, the dollar fell to 116.68 yen from 117.19 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0480 from $1.0407.