Dow still hovering below 20,000
Energy stocks rise on first day of winter as health care companies struggle and U.S. dollar declines.
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.