Belfast Telegraph

US stocks close mostly lower as oil prices slide

A slide in oil and natural gas companies led US stock indexes mostly lower on Monday, despite the Nasdaq composite index eking out another record high.

Energy sector stocks declined the most, weighed down by lower prices for crude oil and other energy futures. Utilities and phone company stocks also fell sharply. But gains among health care and technology stocks helped lift the Nasdaq, extending a winning streak into its fifth day.

With an absence of major new economic data, investors mostly focused on company earnings and several corporate deals, including UnitedHealth's 2.3 billion dollar cash-and-stock buyout of Surgical Care Affiliates.

All told, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 76.42 points, or 0.4%, to 19,887.38. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 8.08 points, or 0.4%, to 2,268.90. The Nasdaq rose 10.76 points, or 0.2%, to 5,531.82.

The market's post-election rally sputtered the last week of December. So far this year, the major stock indexes have mostly inched higher. That could change toward the end of the week, when the next big wave of company earnings news starts rolling in.

Disappointing quarterly earnings pulled Acuity Brands down nearly 15%, making it the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 on Monday. The lighting maker's results fell well short of what analysts were expecting. The stock slid 34.85 dollars to 202.51 dollars.

Investors rewarded strong earnings from Global Payments. The electronic payment processing company climbed 7.2%. The stock led all the gainers in the S&P 500, adding 5.34 dollars to 79.79 dollars.

Company deals sent some stocks higher.

Insurer UnitedHealth's bid for Surgical Care Affiliates drove the surgical care centre operator's shares up 7.90 dollars, or 16.2%, to 56.65 dollars. UnitedHealth slipped 46 cents, or 0.3%, to 161.95 dollars.

VCA vaulted 28.3% after the pet health care company agreed to be acquired by food and drinks company Mars Inc. for around 7.7 billion dollars. The deal also includes 1.4 billion dollars in debt. Shares in VCA added 20.02 dollars to 90.79 dollars.

Several oil and gas companies also racked up losses as energy futures prices fell.

Southwestern Energy fell 50 cents, or 4.9%, to 9.75 dollars, while Range Resources lost 1.47 dollars, or 4.3%, to 32.76 dollars. Devon Energy was off 2.09 dollars, or 4.3%, at 46.58 dollars.

US benchmark crude oil fell 2.03 dollars, or 3.8%, to close at 51.96 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, slid 2.16 dollars, or 3.8%, to close at 54.94 dollars a barrel in London.

Markets overseas were also mixed.

In Europe, Germany's DAX fell 0.3%, while France's CAC 40 slid 0.5%. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4%. Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng index rose 0.3%, while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.1%. Markets in Japan were closed for a holiday.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.37% from 2.42% late Friday.

The pound fell to 1.2163 dollars from 1.2274 dollars, its lowest level since October. The dollar fell to 116.06 yen from 117.02 yen in late trading Friday. The euro rose to 1.0577 dollars from 1.0532 dollars.

AP

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