Belfast Telegraph

Stocks tumble for a third day in a row

US stocks fell for the third day in a row as energy companies tumbled along with the price of crude oil.

Investors also sold high-dividend stocks as bond yields rose, giving investors other alternatives for seeking income.

Crude oil prices fell 5%, their biggest drop in more than a year, after the government reported a big build up in fuel stockpiles.

A survey by a payroll company showed that private companies added the most jobs in three years in February, a sign of stronger economic growth. That helped send bond prices lower and yields higher. The report showed big increases in construction and manufacturing hiring.

According to industry measurements and government data, manufacturing and business investment have improved in the last few months after a steep slump. However investors have longed for evidence manufacturing and construction companies were bringing on more workers, and there was not much of that until Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 5.41 points, or 0.2%, to 2,362.98. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 69.03 points, or 0.3%, to 20,855.73. The Nasdaq composite rose 3.62 points, or 0.1%, to 5,836.55 as health care and technology companies moved higher.

Private businesses added 298,000 jobs last month, according to payroll processor ADP. That came after a slightly smaller gain in January. The US government will issue its own report on the broader jobs market on Friday.

Bond prices dropped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 2.56% from 2.52%.

Federal Reserve policymakers will meet next week, and investors expect the central bank to raise interest rates for the first time since December.

Stocks that pay big dividends such as utilities and real estate investment trusts are often compared to bonds because of their hefty payments to shareholders. When bond yields rise, investors often sell those stocks so they can buy bonds instead. High-dividend companies also fall out of favour when Wall Street expects faster economic growth. Utility holding company PG&E gave up 1.10 dollars, or 1.7%, to 65.16 dollars and Realty Income dropped 2.14 dollars, or 3.6%, to 57.70 dollars.

The Energy Information Administration said oil reserves grew by eight million barrels last week, far more than analysts expected. Benchmark US crude sagged 2.86 dollars, or 5.4%, to 50.28 dollars, a barrel in New York, its lowest price since late November. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 2.81 dollars, or 5%, to 53.11 dollars a barrel in London.

Energy stocks are already lagging the market in 2017, and on Wednesday the 13 biggest losers among S&P 500 companies all came from the energy industry. Marathon Oil lost 1.41 dollars, or 8.7%, to 14.87 dollars and Devon Energy sank 2.84 dollars, or 6.5%, to 40.72 dollars.

Almost three-fourths of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange finished lower as some sectors that might have been expected to rise on the prospect of faster economic growth missed out on the day's gains.

Banks, which have skyrocketed since the election, finished little changed despite the jump in bond yields. Industrial companies declined. Caterpillar lost 2.70 dollars, or 2.8% to 93.23 dollars as a government probe into its taxes and accounting remained in the news. Smaller, domestically focused companies also fell, as the Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks fell 8.84 points, or 0.6%, to 1,366.04.

Medical device and equipment makers moved slightly higher, and biotechnology companies bounced partway back after sharp losses a day earlier. Investors worried about price limits or cuts after President Donald Trump tweeted that he is working on a plan to reduce prices. The Nasdaq Biotechnology index rose 0.9% after a 1.5% loss Tuesday.

The dollar rose to 114.42 yen from 114.05 yen. The euro slipped to 1.0548 dollars from 1.0568 dollars.

Gold fell 6.70 dollars to 1,209.40 dollars an ounce. Silver lost 24 cents, or 1.4%, to 17.30 dollars an ounce. Copper gave up 2 cents to 2.60 dollars a pound.

The French CAC 40 rose 0.1% and the DAX in German was little changed. The FTSE 100 in Britain lost 0.1%. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index shed 0.5% and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng advanced 0.4%. The Kospi in South Korea was unchanged.