Stocks drop modestly as crude price falls
Investors watch corporate earnings for economic views
Major U.S. stock indexes closed modestly lower 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 percent, 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 percent.
The S&P 500 index slid 6.48 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,126.50. The Nasdaq composite index fell 14.34 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,199.82.
The three indexes have posted weekly declines the past two weeks. The Dow and Nasdaq are up about 3.8 percent for the year, while the S&P 500 is up 4 percent.
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 percent 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 percent, to $12.47. Chesapeake Energy fell 21 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $6.35. Devon Energy shed $1.31, or 3 percent, to $41.77.
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. The stock added 29 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $5.30.
European markets fell as a broad rise in government bond yields suggested investors are expecting less central bank stimulus and higher interest rates than before.
U.S. benchmark crude oil fell 41 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close at $49.94 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 43 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close at $51.52 a barrel in London.
The price of gold rose $1.10 to $1,256.60 an ounce, while silver added 3 cents to $17.47 an ounce.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.77 percent from 1.80 percent late Friday.
The dollar weakened to 103.85 yen from 104.18 on Friday, while the euro strengthened to $1.0997 from $1.0983.
Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday when energy stocks lost ground.