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VOL. 41 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 03, 2017

US stock indexes pull back from record highs; Oil falls

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Banks and other financial companies led a slide in U.S. stocks Thursday, erasing some of the gains from a day earlier, when indexes soared to their latest record highs.

Materials and industrials companies also fell sharply. Energy stocks declined along with the price of crude oil. Utilities and phone company stocks bucked the broader market slide.

Investors mostly focused on the latest batch of company news and earnings reports. Traders had an eye on the Federal Reserve amid growing speculation this week that the central bank will raise interest rates again later this month.

"You have the market wondering if the economy is in fact strong enough for a rate hike at this point," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "After the run-up we had yesterday, this is a good excuse for the market to pause."

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 112.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 21,002.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 14.04 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,381.92. The Nasdaq composite index slid 42.81 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,861.22.

Small-company stocks fell more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index gave up 17.97 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,395.67.

The stock market was coming off its biggest single-day gain in nearly four months.
Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.48 percent from 2.46 percent late Wednesday.

Several Federal Reserve officials, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen, are scheduled to speak this week ahead of their next policy meeting later this month. Earlier this week, New York Fed President William Dudley said the case for raising interest rates had gotten stronger. That's helped fuel speculation that the central bank will raise interest rates again this month.
"While it's plausible the Fed lets the U.S. economy run hot before acting, the economic backdrop, in our view, warrants a Fed hike in March," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "In a slow-growth, improving environment we think that's favorable for equities."

Banks, which investors bid sharply higher Wednesday on hopes that higher interest rates would help them earn more from lending, were the biggest losers Thursday.

Citizens Financial Group fell $1.54, or 3.9 percent, to $38.05, while Regions Financial slid 59 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $15.32. Zions Bancorporation gave up $1.57, or 3.4 percent, to $44.96.

The major stock indexes headed lower from the get-go early Thursday as investors considered results from several companies that reported disappointing earnings or forecasts.

Kroger slid 4.3 percent after the supermarket operator said business conditions in the first half of 2017 will remain difficult due to low food prices. The stock fell $1.39 to $30.67.

Barnes & Noble tumbled 8.6 percent after the book seller reported weaker-than-expected earnings and sales of its Nook e-book reader. The company also said business worsened in late January and into the current quarter and forecast a bigger decline in sales at established locations. Its shares slid 85 cents to $9.05.

Shake Shack lost 2.6 percent after the restaurant chain's sales at established locations and its revenue outlook fell short of Wall Street's forecasts. Its shares lost 95 cents to $35.17.
Some companies fared better.

Monster Beverage jumped 12.8 percent after the company's latest quarterly earnings and revenue exceeded Wall Street's expectations. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing $5.36 to $47.37.

Abercrombie & Fitch vaulted 13.9 percent after the clothing company said its Hollister brand did well in its most recent quarter. The stock added $1.63 to $13.32.

Best Buy climbed 6.4 percent after rival hhgregg announced plans to close 88 stores and three distribution facilities. Best Buy gained $2.71 to $44.85.

Investors also jumped at the chance to snap up shares in Snap, the parent company of the Snapchat messaging app. The stock soared 44 percent in its stock market debut, climbing to $24.48, far above its initial price of $17.

News that federal law enforcement officials executed a search warrant last week of several Caterpillar facilities sent shares in the farming and construction equipment manufacturer sliding 4.3 percent. The company said it is cooperating with law enforcement, but did not elaborate. The stock lost $4.22 to $94.36.

In Europe, Germany's DAX slipped 0.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 was 0.1 percent higher. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat. Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock index rose 0.9 percent, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 0.5 percent.

The price of U.S. crude fell $1.22, or 2.3 percent, to close at $52.61 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost $1.28, or 2.3 percent, to close at $55.08 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline shed 3 cents, or 2.1 percent, to close at $1.64 a gallon. Heating oil slid 5 cents, or 2.8 percent, to close at $1.58 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1 cent to close at $2.80 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar strengthened to 114.51 yen from 113.71 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.0501 from $1.0544.

Gold fell $17.10, or 1.4 percent, to $1,232.90 an ounce. Silver slid 74 cents, or 4 percent, to $17.71 an ounce. Copper shed 5 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $2.68 a pound.

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