Belfast Telegraph

Stocks end mixed as investors seek safety

Stocks wobbled Thursday as investors changed course and tempered their expectations for faster economic growth.

Industrial companies, which have surged over the last few months, finished lower as Wall Street focused on gold, bonds, and companies that pay big dividends.

Construction equipment, transportation and metals companies skidded and small-company stocks, which are more sensitive to changes in economic growth, also slumped.

Technology companies fell for the first time in February.

The biggest gains went to utilities, real estate investment trusts, and other companies that pay hefty dividends.

Despite all that, the Dow Jones industrial average, which tracks 30 large US stocks, rose for the 10th day in a row.

Industrial companies have made big gains since November as investors expect the Trump administration and Republican Congress to ramp up spending on infrastructure.

That optimism faded a bit on Thursday.

The Dow added 34.72 points, or 0.2%, to 20,810.32.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.99 points to 2,363.81.

The Nasdaq composite lost 25.12 points, or 0.4%, to 5,835.51.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 9.23 points, or 0.7%, to 1,394.62.

Construction equipment maker Caterpillar gave up 2.65 dollars, or 2.7 % , to 95.55 dollars, its biggest loss since September. United Rentals shed 7.16 dollars, or 5.6 % , to 120.90 dollars.

The price of copper fell 3.3% to 2.64 dollars a pound, its biggest one-day decline in more than a year. Copper is used in numerous construction projects, so its price has jumped recently.

Companies that make basic materials also fell, and US Steel lost 3.18 dollars, or 7.9%, to 37.31 dollars.

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

That helped companies that pay big dividends, like utilities, real estate investment trusts and phone companies.

Electricity company FirstEnergy picked up 60 cents, or 1.9%, to 31.39 dollars. Realty Income, which owns properties used by retailers like drugstores and discount stores, gained 1.72 dollars, or 2.8%, to 62.86 dollars.

L Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, tumbled after it said February sales have been weak, especially at Victoria's Secret. The company decided to stop selling swimwear last year and said sales at older stores have dropped sharply. The stock gave up 9.19 dollars, or 15.8 % , to 48.94 dollars.

Food conglomerate Hormel skidded after it said low turkey prices hurt its profit and sales in the first quarter, and Hormel cut its annual profit estimate because it expects those prices to remain weak. The stock fell 2.01 dollars, or 5.4%, to 35.29 dollars.

HP Inc blew past analyst estimates in the fourth quarter thanks to a 10% jump in revenue from personal computers. The company said Notebook sales jumped, which made up for lower printer revenue and flat desktop sales. The stock added 1.40 dollars, or 8.6%, to 17.60 dollars.

Boston Scientific sank after it said it will take all of its Lotus Valve devices off the market and from clinical testing sites because of a manufacturing problem.

The device is intended to replace damaged or defective aortic valves. Last year the company announced a similar problem with a related Lotus product.

Boston Scientific stock lost 73 cents, or 2.9 % , to 24.43 dollars, and competitor Edwards Lifescience jumped 3.55 dollars, or 3.8 % , to 95.76 dollars.