US Stocks Listless; S&P 500 Closing Worst Month In 2 Years

AP Photo/Richard Drew


NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes were listless in midday trading Wednesday, after earlier gains mostly evaporated, and the Standard & Poor's 500 was on track to close out February with a loss. It would be just the second down month for the index in the last two years, when dividends are included.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up nearly 3 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,748, as of 11:20 a.m. Eastern time. It had been up as much as 0.6 percent earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 3, or less than 0.1 percent, to 25,406, and the Nasdaq composite gained 12, or 0.2 percent, to 7,343.

YIELDS: The 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.88 percent from 2.90 percent late Tuesday.

The 10-year yield gave up about half its increase from the prior day, when Treasury yields climbed on speculation that the Federal Reserve may get more aggressive about raising interest rates. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress that he's more optimistic about the economy, which led some investors to anticipate four rate increases for 2018, up from the three of last year.

Higher rates make bonds more attractive as investments and can divert buyers away from stocks. Worries that rates will rise higher and more quickly than the market expected helped trigger a 10 percent tumble for stocks worldwide earlier this month.

The two-year Treasury yield, which is more influenced by expectations for movements by the Fed, held steady at 2.27 percent. The 30-year Treasury yield, which is more influenced by expectations for inflation, fell to 3.14 percent from 3.16 percent.

SAILING HIGHER: Booking Holdings, the company formerly known as Priceline, jumped to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it reported a bigger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected, aided by stronger travel bookings.

The stock jumped $156.68, or 8.2 percent, to $2,061.69.

X FACTOR: TJX, the company behind T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, was also higher following its earnings release. The retailer said it will boost its dividend and buy back up to $3 billion during the fiscal year that ends Feb. 2, 2019.

TJX rose $6.01, or 7.8 percent, to $83.82.

LOWE'S DOWN: On the losing end was Lowe's, which fell to one of the sharpest losses in the S&P 500 after it reported weaker profit for the last quarter than analysts expected.

The home-improvement retailer's shares dropped $6.50, or 6.8 percent, to $89.29.

A PAINFUL MONTH: The S&P 500 is on track to close out February with a 2.8 percent loss, a sharp turnaround from its blistering start to the year.

In January, stocks jumped on expectations that corporate profits would keep rising and the global economy would keep strengthening. It was a continuation of the remarkably smooth rise that investors enjoyed in 2016.

The momentum hit a wall at the start of February when a government report showed that workers' wages grew more strongly than expected in January, which sparked worries about rising inflation and a more aggressive Federal Reserve.

The S&P 500 had as many days in February where it lost at least 1 percent as it did in all of last year.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Global markets were subdued. In Europe, France's CAC 40 fell 0.5 percent, and Germany's DAX lost 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 in London was down 0.4 percent.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.4 percent, South Korea's Kospi lost 1.2 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1.4 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 106.72 Japanese yen from 107.42 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2202 from $1.2236, and the British pound slipped to $1.3781 from $1.3916.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.22 to $61.79 while Brent crude, the international standard, dropped $1.19 to $65.33 per barrel.

Gold rose 80 cents to $1,319.40 per ounce.

-by AP reporter Stan Choe



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