The market’s quietest year
U.S. stocks barely budge as earnings and central banks dominate
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.
Europe’s central bank maintained its current policies and ECB 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, 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.
“There’s the belief that the Fed and the ECB 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.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped at the finish and lost 0.38 points 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.
The S&P 500 has only had four moves of 1 percent or greater this year. In a typical year that happens more than 50 times.
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. Johnson & Johnson rose $1.36, or 1 percent, to $136.57 and drugmaker AbbVie added $1.24, or 1.7 percent, to $74.01.
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.
Trader Michael Milano works Thursday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.