Belfast Telegraph

US stocks waver again as energy companies fall

Technology and energy companies skidded on Friday while banks and insurers recovered some of their recent losses, leaving major US indexes little changed on the day and slightly lower for the week.

Credit monitoring company Equifax plunged after it disclosed a data breach that affects 143 million Americans.

Competitors TransUnion and Experian also fell, while data security companies like Symantec jumped as investors expected they will get more business.

Grocery stores and food companies slumped as Kroger said stiff competition forced it to cut prices. Target also said it is lowering prices.

Hurricane Irma continued to devastate islands in the Caribbean.

The enormous storm killed at least 21 people, a total that is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search.

It also left thousands of people homeless, and more than a million people in Florida and Georgia have been ordered to evacuate.

Irma is expected to hit Florida over the weekend with winds surpassing 130 miles per hour.

Experts think the storms will slow down US economic growth in the third quarter.

While that is likely to be temporary, David Chalupnik, head of equities at Nuveen Asset Management, said the effect on the stock market could linger because it will be hard for investors to tell how much of any individual company's problems are caused by the weather.

"The next couple of months are going to be pretty cloudy," Mr Chalupnik said.

He said insurance companies, cruise lines, and oil refiners based in the Gulf Coast or South East could take losses and bad debt at credit card companies will increase, and since the storm will push the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower for a bit longer, that will hurt banks by keeping interest rates low on loans.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 3.67 points, or 0.1%, to 2461.43. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 13.01 points, or 0.1%, to 21797.79.

The Nasdaq composite dropped 37.68 points, or 0.6%, to 6360.19. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 0.76 points, or 0.1%, to 1399.43. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Equifax, which hit all-time highs last month, took its biggest one-day loss since 1999 after it said a cyber intrusion exposed Social Security numbers and other information from 143 million Americans between mid-May and late July.

Equifax tumbled 19.49 dollars, or 13.7%, to 123.23 dollars. TransUnion fell 1.89 dollars, or 3.8%, to 47.50 dollars and Experian fell 0.7% in London.

Security software company Symantec jumped 1.03 dollars, or 3.4%, to 31.63 dollars and competitor FireEye rose 24 cents, or 1.5%, to 16.01 dollars.

Insurer Chubb rose 5.97 dollars, or 4.4%, to 140.85 dollars and XL Group regained 2.13 dollars, or 5.8%, to 38.61 dollars.

Still, investors expect the industry to take steep losses from Irma and Hurricane Harvey.

Reinsurance companies, which sell policies that cover catastrophic losses like those caused by storms and floods, are down about 10% since early August.

Property and casualty insurers have also stumbled.

Grocery store chain Kroger said intense competition with Target and Wal-Mart forced it to cut prices in the second quarter, which hurt its profits.

Making matters worse, after the quarter ended Amazon.com completed its purchase of Whole Foods and immediately cut prices on many items.

Kroger did not change its annual forecast, but that projection does not account for the hurricanes, which may hurt its sales.

Kroger dropped 1.71 dollars, or 7.5%, to 21.06 dollars. Supervalu fell 1.43 dollars, or 6.8%, to 19.66 dollars. Target shed 1.15 dollars, or 2%, to 57.27 dollars and Wal-Mart gave up 1.25 dollars, or 1.5%, to 78.88 dollars.

Information technology company Science Applications International came up short of Wall Street estimates in the second quarter and SAIC shares slid 12.93 dollars, or 17.3%, to 61.73 dollars.

Apple shed 2.32 dollars, or 1.4%, to 158.94 dollars. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices sank 41 cents, or 3.3%, to 12.22 dollars.

The German DAX picked up 0.1% and the FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.3%.

In France, the CAC 40 declined less than 0.1%. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.6% after the country's economic growth rate was reduced.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5% and the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.1%. Mexico's Bolsa stock index fell 0.7% after a powerful earthquake hit near the southern coast. Authorities said least 58 people were killed.

AP

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