Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Specialist Anthony Rinaldi is reflected in a screen Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange as he watches U.S. stocks in their promising start. The gains began to fade around noon, with losses accelerati­ng after the mid-afternoon release of the Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” survey of economic conditions. Story,

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks gave up a promising start and finished mostly lower Wednesday as investors continued to worry about lagging wages and energy companies dropped with the price of oil.

Stocks climbed early on as a solid quarter from Morgan Stanley revived optimism about banks, and strong results from auto and industrial parts distributo­r Genuine Parts sent car makers and suppliers higher.

The gains began to fade around noon as oil prices and energy companies sagged. The losses accelerate­d after the mid-afternoon release of the Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” survey of economic conditions.

The Fed said economic growth continued from mid-March into early April and pay improved for some workers. But investors have been wondering when rising statistics like consumer confidence will start to turn into better pay and greater spending.

“Show me where those numbers are translatin­g into something more than just feelings,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northweste­rn Mutual Wealth Management. “People are looking for evidence that these confidence numbers are translatin­g into actual actions and the Beige Book showed that over the last couple of months it’s been more of the same.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished down 4.02 points, or 0.2 percent, at 2,338.17. It rose as much as 10 points, or 0.4 percent, earlier. The Dow lost 118.79 points, or 0.6 percent, to 20,404.49. Half of the bluechip index’s losses came from IBM, which reported weaker-than-expected sales in the first quarter.

The Nasdaq composite rose 13.56 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,863.03 as health care companies climbed. And there were signs of optimism about the economy as well.

The Russell 2000 index, which is made up of smaller companies that tend to be more U.S.-focused, added 5.24 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,367.13 after a late gain a day ago.

Oil prices slumped after the Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion said U.S. crude inventorie­s didn’t shrink as much as investors hoped they would last week, and the EIA says the stockpiles are larger than normal for this time of year. Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.97, or 3.8 percent, to $50.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price internatio­nal oils, fell $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $52.93 per barrel in London.

All 34 energy companies on the S&P 500 finished lower. Chevron $1.45, or 1.4 percent, to $104.23 and Marathon Oil sank 68 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $15.06.

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