The Coeur d’Alene Press – Business, Banks and tech companies pull US stocks slightly lower

NEW YORK (AP) U.S. stock indexes are hardly budging Wednesday as banks and technology companies give back some of their gains from earlier in the week while retailers and energy companies trade higher. Target said it will hire far more workers for the holiday season this year, which has investors hoping for a strong holiday shopping period.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index held steady at 2,496 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 22,141. The Nasdaq composite remained at 6,453. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 3 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,427.

With stocks at record highs, investors looked for bargains. Energy and telecommunications companies, which have fallen this year, moved higher and some of the best-performing industries of the year, including technology and health care companies, took losses.

FED HEAD: One reason stocks may be holding steady: the Federal Reserve will meet next week, and along with the usual questions about interest rates and the Fed’s balance sheet, investors are wondering about the central bank’s leadership. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s four-year term will end in February and it’s not clear if President Donald Trump will re-appoint her or replace her.

“There are factions of the Fed, as well as potential Fed chair candidates, that are less focused on market reactions and will be more focused on the need to raise rates from their current levels to offset a future recession,” said Eric Freedman, chief investment officer for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

Freedman said Yellen has made a priority of informing Wall Street about her plans and taking investor reactions into account. A different Fed chair might not do that, which could lead to a bumpier ride for stocks.

ON SALE? Department store chain Nordstrom climbed after CNBC reported that the Nordstrom family is close to a deal to take the company private. The stock has risen over the last three months following talk that descendants of co-founder John Nordstrom, including company executives, might buy the 70 percent of the company they don’t already own. The stock gained $2.59 cents, or 5.7 percent, to $47.64.

IF THEY CAN MAKE IT THERE: Centene said it will expand into New York through a $3.75 billion acquisition of Fidelis Care. Its stock jumped $7.40, or 8.1 percent, to $98.28. Centene focuses most of its business on Medicaid programs, but it has expanded into several states over the past year through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

JILTED: Hard drive maker Western Digital slumped $3.33, or 3.8 percent, to $85.45 after its partner Toshiba said it will sell its computer memory business to a consortium led by Bain Capital Private Equity. Western Digital wants to buy that business and has filed a lawsuit to stop Toshiba from selling it to anyone else. Toshiba is trying to offset losses by its Westinghouse Electric nuclear business, which filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

STAY ON TARGET: Target said it plans to hire 100,000 workers for the holidays, some 30,000 more than it hired a year ago. Its stock climbed $1.51, or 2.6 percent, to $59.40. Electronics seller Best Buy rose $1.69, or 3 percent, to $58.48 and clothing retailer Gap gained 76 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $28.37. Video game seller GameStop added 48 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $20.01 and Amazon.com rose $11.21, or 1.1 percent, to $993.79.

APPLE: Apple fell $1.83, or 1.1 percent, to $159.03 Investors appeared worried about the $999 price tag of the tenth-anniversary iPhone X as well as its later launch date in early November. That could affect Apple’s revenue in the next few quarters. Investors seemed to like some of Apple’s plans Tuesday, including new features that are being added to the Apple Watch, but the stock took a small loss for the day.

MORE PAIN: Credit bureau Equifax hit an 18-month low in heavy trading. The company disclosed Thursday that vital data about 143 million Americans was compromised in a cyberattack. It faces criticism from Congress, state governments and consumers. The stock dropped another $13.97, or 12.1 percent, to $101.99. It traded above $142 last week before news of the attack broke.

ENERGY: Energy prices after the government reported a smaller-than-expected increased in crude oil stockpiles and a bigger drop in gasoline inventories. Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.07, or 2.2 percent, to $49.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 89 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $55.16 a barrel in London.

Heating oil rose 3 cents to $1.77 a gallon and wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to $1.65 a gallon. Natural gas climbed 6 cents to $3.06 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold lost $4.70 to $1,328 an ounce. Silver declined 2 cents to $17.87 an ounce. Copper fell 6 cents to $2.98 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.66 yen from 110.11 yen. The euro fell to $1.1873 from $1.1970.

BONDS: Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.19 percent from 2.17 percent.

OVERSEAS: The German DAX and CAC 40 in France both rose 0.2 percent. London’s FTSE 100 index declined 0.1 percent. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.3 percent and the Kospi in South Korea shed 0.2 percent.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jays

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