Stocks end mostly lower; Energy, utilities fade


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NEW YORK — The stock market finished mostly lower Thursday as investors assessed the latest batch of company earnings and sold utility and energy stocks.

Companies that pay steady dividends and have a long record of profitability, such as utilities, have surged this year, benefiting from a shift in sentiment as investors sold previously high-flying Internet and small-company stocks. A sell-off in these stocks could be a troubling sign for the overall market.

“The market’s still pretty sloppy,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. “The fear in the market is that the selling spreads to the defensive stocks, the safe havens and that could bring down the whole market.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,875.63. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 32.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,550.97. The Nasdaq composite lost 16.18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,051.50.

Utility companies in the S&P 500 fell 1.2 percent, paring their gains this year to 12.5 percent. Energy stocks dropped 1.3 percent.

Stocks had started the day higher as investors looked over earnings reports and after some encouraging news on hiring.

The U.S. government reported the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving. The drop follows two weeks of increases that reflected mostly temporary layoffs around the Easter holiday.

Keurig Green Mountain was among the big gainers after report earnings. The maker of specialist coffees climbed $11.98, or 13 percent, to $104.19 after its earnings exceeded analysts’ estimates. Keurig, known for its single-serve coffee brewing system, said late Wednesday its net income climbed 22 percent in its fiscal second quarter.

Twenty-First Century Fox was another winner. The company’s stock rose $2.10, or 6.5 percent, to $34.22 after it also reported earnings that surpassed analysts’ expectations. Fox’s television unit got a boost from higher advertising revenue during the National Football League playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Tesla was among the day’s losers. The maker of electric cars reported a $49.8 million first-quarter loss late Wednesday and said that spending on investments would weigh on earnings later this year. The company’s stock fell $22.76, or 11.3 percent, to $178.59.

Government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.61 percent from 2.59 percent Wednesday. The yield, which is used to set interest rates on loans including home mortgages, is near its lowest level of the year.

Among other stocks making big moves:

• Ford gained 35 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $15.81 after the automaker said it will buy back up to $1.8 billion of its own stock. Ford says the buybacks will help offset potential dilution from convertible debt and stock-based compensation for employees.

• Twitter, which has endured a rough ride since surging on the first day of its initial public offering in November, rose $1.30, or 4.2 percent, to $31.96. The social media company’s stock has plunged 52 percent since February.

Ford Motor Co


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