Dow still hov­er­ing be­low 20,000

En­ergy stocks rise on first day of win­ter as health care com­pa­nies strug­gle and U.S. dol­lar de­clines.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Mar­ley Jay

Stocks fin­ished slightly lower Wed­nes­day as health care com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to strug­gle. En­ergy com­pa­nies rose as the price of nat­u­ral gas surged on the first day of win­ter.

Some traders aren’t stick­ing around to see if the Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age reaches the 20,000-point mile­stone: trad­ing vol­ume has fallen sharply this week as the year-end hol­i­days draw near.

Af­ter a mixed open­ing, stocks fin­ished at their low­est prices of the day. Health care com­pa­nies con­tin­ued to lag the mar­ket, as they’ve done through­out 2016. In­dus­trial com­pa­nies, which have surged since the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, also eased lower. A jump of al­most 9 per­cent in the price of nat­u­ral gas helped gas and pipe­line com­pa­nies move higher.

The Dow dipped 32.66 points, or 0.2 per­cent, to 19,941.96. The Stan­dard & Poor’s 500 in­dex lost 5.58 points, or 0.2 per­cent, to 2,265.18. The Nas­daq com­pos­ite fell 12.51 points, or 0.2 per­cent, to 5,471.43.

Can­cer drug­maker Cel­gene dipped $2.67, or 2.3 per­cent, to $116.40 and Merck skid­ded $1.07, or 1.8 per­cent, to $59.43 while health in­sur­ance com­pany An­them lost $2.68, or 1.8 per­cent, to $144.98 as health care stocks fell. The S&P 500 health care in­dex is down 4.4 per­cent this year. The S&P 500 it­self is up al­most 11 per­cent.

Nat­u­ral gas com­pa­nies made big gains thanks to a surge in nat­u­ral gas fu­tures. The price of that fuel climbed 28 cents, or 8.6 per­cent, to $3.54 per 1,000 cu­bic feet on the first day of win­ter. South­west­ern En­ergy jumped 60 cents, or 5.8 per­cent, to $10.98 and Cabot Oil & Gas gained 62 cents, or 2.8 per­cent, to $22.44. Drilling ser­vice and pipe­line com­pa­nies also rose.

FedEx said its quar­terly ex­penses climbed, and its earn­ings fell short of Wall Street es­ti­mates. The com­pany’s stock lost $6.62, or 3.3 per­cent, to $192.12.

Twit­ter slumped af­ter Chief Tech­nol­ogy Of­fi­cer Adam Messinger said he’s leav­ing the com­pany. Nike gained 51 cents, or 1 per­cent, to $52.30 af­ter its sec­ond-quar­ter profit and sales came in stronger than an­a­lysts ex­pected. Nike is by far the worst per­former on the Dow this year.

Bench­mark U.S. crude fell 81 cents, or 1.5 per­cent, to $52.49 a bar­rel in New York. Brent crude, the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard, lost 89 cents, or 1.6 per­cent, to $54.46 a bar­rel in Lon­don.

The dol­lar de­clined to 117.54 yen from 118.04 yen. The euro rose to $1.0427 from $1.0377.

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