Belfast Telegraph

Stagnant day on Wall Street as stocks linger below last week's highs

A mostly listless day of trading left US stock indexes little changed on Monday, hovering just below the record highs they set late last week.

Drug company and consumer-focused stocks weighed on the market, while energy companies surged, getting a lift from a pick-up in crude oil prices.

The slight pullback came as investors took advantage of the milestones reached Friday by the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite to pocket some gains. Strong US jobs data left traders feeling more confident in the economy heading into this week.

"It's a little bit of profit-taking," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "We're coming off a good employment number and we know the consumer's been strong."

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 14.24 points, or 0.1%, to 18,529.29. The S&P 500 index dipped 1.98 points, or 0.1%, to 2,180.89. The Nasdaq shed 7.98 points, or 0.2%, to 5,213.14.

The stock market hit record highs on Friday after the Labour Department said US employers added 255,000 jobs in July - far more than investors expected. The hiring spree, which followed an even bigger surge in June, gave investors more confidence that the economy is still growing.

The major stock indexes appeared headed for another day of gains early on, as markets in Asia and Europe shrugged off new data showing China's exports and imports declined again last month. A report indicating industrial production in Germany grew at a better-than-expected rate in June helped lift markets overseas.

US markets initially wavered between small gains and losses, but ultimately remained slightly down the rest of the day.

Two drugmakers weighed on the market early on.

Shares in Bristol-Myers Squibb were hammered after plunging on Friday following news that the drugmaker's cancer treatment Opdivo failed in a study aimed at extending its usage for lung cancer patients. The stock lost 2.98, or 4.7%, to 60.30 US dollars.

Meanwhile, Allergan slid 2.2% after the Botox-maker's second-quarter revenue fell short of Wall Street's forecasts. The stock lost 5.54 to 248.31 US dollars.

A pick-up in oil prices drove several oil and natural gas companies higher.

Marathon Oil added 38 cents, or 2.7%, to 14.25 dollars, while Tesoro rose 2.76 dollars, or 3.7%, to 77.47 dollars. Chesapeake Energy gained 12 cents, or 2.5%, to 5.01 dollars.

Benchmark US crude rose 1.22 dollars, or 2.9%, to close at 43.02 dollars per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 1.12 dollars, or 2.5%, to close at 45.39 dollars per barrel in London.

Investors also had their eye on some corporate deal news.

Wal-Mart Stores slipped 0.6% after the retail giant agreed to buy fast-growing online retail newcomer for three billion dollars in cash and another 300 million dollars in stock. The deal underscores how serious Wal-Mart is about challenging online leader Amazon. Shares in Wal-Mart shed 42 cents to 73.34 dollars.

Mattress Firm vaulted more than two-fold after the mattress retailer agreed to be acquired by furniture seller Steinhoff International in a deal valued at 3.8 billion dollars, including debt. The stock gained 34.01 to 63.75 dollars.

Investors should get more insight into the health of the economy at the end of this week, when the government reports July's retail sales figures.

"That's probably the most important data point this week," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "We're looking for a strong retail report that again confirms that the US consumer is strong and doing their job of helping the economy."

Major stock indexes in Europe eked out gains.

Germany's DAX rose 0.6%, while France's CAC 40 gained 0.1%. Britain's FTSE 100 index added 0.2%.

Earlier, markets in Asia moved mostly higher despite the discouraging economic data out of China. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.6%, while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.9%. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 surged 2.4%. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 added 0.4%, while Seoul's Kospi rose 0.9%. India's Sensex added 0.2%. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Thailand also rose, while Singapore declined.

In other energy trading, wholesale petrol slipped a penny to 1.36 dollars a gallon, while heating oil rose three cents to 1.34 dollars a gallon. Natural gas fell two cents to 2.75 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet.

In metals trading, the price of gold fell 3.10 dollars, or 0.2%, to 1,341.30 dollars an ounce. Silver dipped one cent, or 0.1%, to 19.81 dollars an ounce. Copper added a penny, or 0.5%, to 2.17 dollars a pound.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 1.59%. In currency markets, the dollar rose to 102.47 yen from Friday's 101.75 yen. The euro edged down to 1.1083 from 1.1091 dollars.


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