Europe stimulus hold lulls stocks
NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes essentially hit the snooze bar Thursday as investors were relieved the European Central Bank didn’t announce any changes to its stimulus policies.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped at the finish and lost 0.38 point to 2,473.45. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,611.78. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.96 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record high of 6,390. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 0.58 points to 1,442.35, also a record.
Europe’s central bank maintained its current policies and the bank president, Mario Draghi, said the bank hasn’t even set a date for considering changes. Investors were startled a month ago when he spoke about scaling back the stimulus program.
On an up-and-down day of trading, second-quarter results moved other stocks: health care companies including Abbott Laboratories climbed and paint, trucking and railroad companies fell.
Sears announced an online appliance sales pact with Amazon.com, and appliance makers and home-improvement stores dropped. But overall the market hardly budged. While stocks have been setting record highs for most of 2017, including Wednesday, the market is having its quietest year in decades.
The S&P 500 has had only four moves of 1 percent or greater this year. In a typical year that happens more than 50 times.
“There’s the belief that the Fed and the [European Central Bank] are backstopping markets and if something bad were to happen, they would increase accommodation,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management. “If you throw a bunch of money at a problem, typically risk moves lower and people feel more confidence.”
Abbott Laboratories, which makes infant formula, drugs and medical devices, gained $1.42, or 2.9 percent, to $50.85 after reporting results that were better than expected. Health care products giant Johnson & Johnson rose $1.36, or 1 percent, to $136.57 and drugmaker AbbVie, which split from Abbott in 2013, rose $1.24, or 1.7 percent, to $74.01.
Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries fell after it reported weaker-than-expected sales. PPG said higher raw materials costs hurt its results, and so did unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. Its shares gave up $6.88, or 6.1 percent, to $106.72.
Competitor Sherwin-Williams had a weak second quarter. It also pointed to rising costs as well as lower exterior paint sales. The stock lost $8.94, or 2.5 percent, to $350.78.
Sears said it will begin selling Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. The owner of the Sears and Kmart chains has closed large numbers of stores in recent years and said in March that it might not be able to stay in business. Its stock jumped 92 cents, or 10.6 percent, to $9.60. Even with Thursday’s climb, Sears stock is down 36 percent over the past year.
Amazon shares edged up $1.83 to $1,028.70.
Benchmark U.S. crude lost 33 cents to $46.79 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, sank 40 cents to $49.30 a barrel in London.
Bond prices moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.26 percent from 2.27 percent. Highdividend stocks like utilities climbed, as reduced bond yields make those stocks more appealing to investors who want income.