U.S. Stocks Decline As Energy Stocks Slump; Homebuilders Drop

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks declined in early afternoon trading Tuesday as energy stocks slumped again. Homebuilders dropped after builder KB Home said that demand for homes was weak.

         The market had climbed during morning trading, getting a lift from a survey that suggested the rapid pace of hiring in 2014 would continue this year. A separate survey showed that small businesses remain confident for the outlook on growth.


KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell one point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,026 as of 1:49 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,657. The Nasdaq composite gained seven points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,671.


OIL STAYS VOLATILE: The price of oil continued to slide. Oil fell after the energy minister for the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday there are no plans for OPEC to curb production to shore up falling crude prices. The price of oil has slumped 57 percent since last June as traders bet that the supply glut will persist.

         Benchmark U.S. crude fell 64 cents to $45.46 a barrel in New York. Brent, the international standard, fell $1.46 to $47.22 a barrel in London.


HOME HIT: KB Home slumped after its CEO said that the company was experiencing softening demand and rising costs. The stock slumped $2.46, or 14.8 percent, to $14.11.


THE QUOTE: Stock market volatility has picked up at the start of the year, but investors should remain calm, said Janet Dougherty, a global investment specialist in Chicago at JPMorgan private bank.

         "You have to remember that we've been through an extended period where there wasn't a lot of volatility in the equity markets, and now we're just getting back to normalized levels," Dougherty said.

         Dougherty predicts that the combination of low interest rates and falling energy costs will benefit consumer-focused companies in the U.S.


JOBS OUTLOOK: U.S. employers advertised the most job openings in nearly 14 years in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That suggests businesses are determined to keep adding staff because they are confident that strong economic growth will create more demand for their goods and services.


Job openings rose 2.9 percent to 4.97 million in November, the most since January 2001. More job vacancies generally lead to more hiring.


SMALL BUSINESS OUTLOOK: Investors were also encouraged by a survey on small business, which showed confidence rising to an 8-year high in December. The survey also showed that more small business owners plan to raise wages.


STIMULUS FOR EUROPE? In Europe, traders are speculating that the European Central Bank will announce more stimulus later this month to boost the region's flagging economy.


EUROPE'S DAY: France's CAC 40 gained 1.5 percent while Germany's DAX rose 1.6 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.6 percent.


CHINA'S EXPORTS REBOUND: Chinese exports grew 9.7 percent in December over a year earlier, while imports shrank 2.4 percent. The results were better than investors expected.


BONDS AND CURRENCIES: In government bond trading, prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which climbs when prices drop, rose to 1.92 percent from 1.91 percent on Monday.

         The dollar gained against the euro but dropped against the yen. The euro fell 0.5 percent to $1.1770 and the dollar fell 0.2 percent to 118.03 Japanese yen.

         – by AP Reporter Steve Rothwell



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