US stock indexes drift mostly lower; Dow ekes out gain
The Dow Jones industrial average inched further into record territory Thursday, eking out a gain while the broader U.S. market indexes drifted lower.
The Dow’s gain came a day after closing above 20,000 for the first time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq composite posted small losses, snapping two days of consecutive record highs.
More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Financial stocks led the gainers, while health care companies lagged the most.
With about 30 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 index serving up earnings this week, the quarterly report cards continued to be a focus for investors Thursday.
“Earnings have come in strong, for sure,” said Patrick Schaffer, global investment specialist, J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “The market continues to digest some of the earnings news, and obviously markets don’t go up or down in a straight line.”
The S&P 500 index fell 1.69 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,296.68. The Nasdaq slid 1.16 points, or 0.02 percent, to 5,655.18. The Dow rose 32.40 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,100.91.
Small-company stocks did worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 lost 6.84 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,375.60.
It’s been a record-making week on Wall Street. The S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite closed at all-time highs on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Dow, which tracks 30 major industrial companies, added its own milestone Wednesday after it breached the 20,000 mark for the first time.
The market is getting a boost from strong company earnings and investor optimism that the Trump administration’s policies on taxes, regulation and trade will be good for business.
On Thursday, the stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses for most of the day as investors sized up the latest company earnings news.
Several companies got a boost after they reported results that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, including Sherwin-Williams. The paint and coatings company also said it expects to complete its $11.3 billion purchase of Valspar within 90 days after making a relatively small divestiture. The stock gained $21.58, or 7.6 percent, to $305.
Traders welcomed an optimistic 2017 forecast and good bookings from Royal Caribbean Cruises. The cruise operator’s stock jumped $7.97, or 9.1 percent, to $95.64.
New Commerce Department data indicating sales of new U.S. homes fell 10.4 percent in December didn’t weigh on PulteGroup. The homebuilder’s quarterly earnings and sales beat financial analysts’ estimates, lifting its shares 74 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $21.18.
United Rentals led the gainers in the S&P 500. The equipment rentals company announced it would acquire construction company NES Rentals for $965 million. United Rentals vaulted $12.80, or 11.2 percent, to $127.06.
A slump in toy sales over the holidays dampened Mattel’s latest results. The toymaker was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, sliding $5.57, or 17.7 percent, to $25.99.
Investors also were put off by McKesson’s fiscal third-quarter results, which were hurt by weaker-than-expected prices. McKesson lost $12.55, or 8.3 percent, to $138.55.
Whirlpool tumbled 8.5 percent after the appliance maker said Britain’s impending departure from the European Union hurt its profits. The stock fell $16.26 to $173.94.
Beyond the ongoing wave of company earnings reports, investors will be looking Friday to a key gauge of the U.S. economy’s health when the Commerce Department delivers its estimate of what the nation’s gross domestic product was in the final quarter of 2016.
Major stock indexes overseas were mixed Thursday.
Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent, while the CAC-40 in France slipped 0.2 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 surged 1.8 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.4 percent. Markets in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and other Asian countries are about to begin holidays of varying lengths to mark the lunar new year, curtailing trading across much of the region.
Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield slid to 2.50 percent from 2.52 percent late Wednesday.
The dollar increased to 114.42 yen from 113.60 on Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0692 from $1.0743.
Energy prices moved broadly higher.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.03, or 2 percent, to close at $53.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.16, or 2.1 percent, to close at $56.24 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.54 a gallon, while heating oil added 3 cents to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 5 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $3.38 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In other commodity trading, the price of gold fell $8, or 0.7 percent, to $1,189.80 an ounce. Silver slid 13 cents to $16.85 an ounce. Copper gave up 4 cents to $2.67 a pound.