Belfast Telegraph

US stock indexes close modestly lower as energy prices fall

Major US stock indexes closed modestly lower on Monday, with some of the biggest declines coming in oil and gas companies as energy prices turned lower.

Companies that rely on consumer spending also lost ground. Utilities and telecom stocks, which pay large dividends, bucked the downward trend as bond yields fell.

Investors had their eye on corporate earnings. Some 80 of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index are scheduled to report their quarterly results this week.

How those companies fared in the third quarter, and how they see their prospects for growth in coming months, should give traders a better handle on the state of the economy.

"You have a market that is trying to decipher where the economy is headed, what companies are telling us and what the Fed is poised to do come December," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 51.98 points, or 0.3%, to 18,086.40. The average was down as much as 75 points earlier in the day. Its two biggest decliners: McDonald's and Nike, each down 1%.

The S&P 500 index slid 6.48 points, or 0.3%, to 2,126.50. The Nasdaq composite index fell 14.34 points, or 0.3%, to 5,199.82.

The three indexes have posted weekly declines the past two weeks. The Dow and Nasdaq are up about 3.8% for the year, while the S&P 500 is up 4%.

The market action got off to an uneven start on Monday as traders pored over company earnings. The major indexes wavered between small gains and losses in the first couple of hours of trading, before settling into the red by midday.

Hasbro surged 7.4%, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, after the toy maker posted better-than-expected revenue in its latest quarter. The stock climbed 5.66 dollars to 81.82 dollars. Shares in rival Mattel got a slight bump. The company, which is due to report quarterly results on Wednesday, rose 8 cents, 0.3%, to 30.18 dollars.

Bank of America also reported encouraging third-quarter results, including earnings that climbed nearly 6% from a year earlier, helped by strong results in investment banking and trading. The stock added five cents, or 0.3%, to 16.05 dollars.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services' results fell short of Wall Street's forecasts. The stock slid 1.57 dollars, or 2%, to 78.45 dollars.

Netflix vaulted 19% in after-market trading after reporting earnings that were far higher than analysts were expecting.

As has become the pattern in recent quarters, financial analysts have forecast earnings for the third quarter to be down overall from a year ago, largely due to the downbeat energy sector.

While the energy sector leads all others in the S&P 500, up 14.2% for the year, it was among the biggest laggards again on Monday.

Southwestern Energy was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, sliding 43 cents, or 3.3%, to 12.47 dollars. Chesapeake Energy fell 21 cents, or 3.2%, to 6.35 dollars. Devon Energy shed 1.31 dollar, or 3%, to 41.77 dollars.

Beyond earnings, investors also bid up shares in SuperValu after the grocery store and logistics company agreed to sell its Save-A-Lot unit to Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp for 1.37 billion dollars. The stock added 29 cents, or 5.8%, to 5.30 dollars.