Tech companies lead US stocks lower in afternoon trade

Updated 2:20 pm, Friday, September 22, 2017

The major U.S. stock indexes veered slightly lower in afternoon trading Friday, adding to the market’s modest losses from a day earlier. Technology companies led the slide. Phone companies and airlines were among the biggest gainers. A new round of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea helped send bond yields lower, which weighed on bank shares.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,499 as of 2:09 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 28 points, or 0.1 percent, to 22,331. The Nasdaq composite slid 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,418. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 6 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,450.

NORTH KOREA: Geopolitical tensions ratcheted up after President Donald Trump authorized stiffer sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons advances, drawing a furious response from Pyongyang. Trump expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un retaliated by calling Trump “deranged” and saying he’ll “pay dearly” for his threats.

THE QUOTE: The small moves in U.S. stock indexes suggested investors were shrugging off the latest wave of ramped-up tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. He also noted that the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, also was little changed.

“Overnight markets had a little bit of weakness based on the North Korea situation, but that has not extended into the U.S. markets today,” he said. “The North Korea news has contributed to bonds’ strength, but it’s interesting that we have not had a commensurate weakness in equities.”

BOND MARKET: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 2.26 percent from 2.28 percent late Thursday. The decline weighed on bank shares, including U.S. Bancorp, which was down 34 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $53.40. Lower bond yields mean banks have to charge lower interest rates on long-term loans like mortgages.

FEELING BETTER: Several health care companies recovered some of the ground they lost earlier as Sen. John McCain said he won’t vote for the latest Republican bill to repeal the Obama health care law. His statement likely deals a fatal blow to the last-gasp GOP measure in a Senate showdown expected next week. UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, was down 51 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $194.70. It traded as low as $188 earlier. Centene, which administers Medicaid programs and sells health plans to the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, rose $3.04, or 3.4 percent, to $93.78. Molina Healthcare gained $3.04, or 4.9 percent, to $65.55.

TECH SLIDE: Technology sector stocks also weighed on the market. Apple was down $2, or 1.3 percent, to $151.39. Advanced Micro Devices fell 17 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $13.24.

HIGH FLYERS: Industrials sectors stocks, including several airlines, were among the biggest gainers. Alaska Air Group added $1.72, or 2.4 percent, to $74.63. American Airlines Group rose $1.03, or 2.2 percent, to $47.32.

ROCKY OUTLOOK: Compass Minerals slid 10.8 percent after the mining company cut its annual profit forecast after a partial ceiling cave-in at a rock salt mine in Ontario that will slow operations for six weeks. The stock was down $7.48 to $62.03.

DIAL-A-DEAL: Sprint climbed 4.7 percent after Reuters reported the wireless carrier is close to signing a deal with rival T-Mobile. Shares in Sprint added 38 cents to $8.41. T-Mobile gained 51 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $63.90.

IN GEAR: CarMax rose 7.8 percent after the used car retailer’s latest quarterly results beat analysts’ forecasts. The stock gained $5.35 to $74.19.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 4 cents to $50.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, giving up an earlier gain. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 21 cents to $56.30 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.07 yen from 112.55 yen on Thursday. The euro climbed to $1.1947 from $1.1934.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 gained 0.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent. In Asia, markets finished unevenly after S&P downgraded the credit rating for China and Hong Kong. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.3 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.8 percent.

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