Monday 19 February 2018

Losses for airlines and tech companies on mixed day for US stocks

Homebuilders also fell sharply after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes dropped in December.

The Dow average climbed 140.67 points, or 0.5%, to 26392.79 (Martin Keene/PA)
The Dow average climbed 140.67 points, or 0.5%, to 26392.79 (Martin Keene/PA)

By Marley Jay, Associated Press

US stocks spent a second day flipping between small gains and losses as investors again looked for hints about the Trump administration’s stance on international trade and the dollar.

Major indexes ended the day mixed as airlines plunged while biotech drugmakers climbed.

Homebuilders fell sharply after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes dropped in December.

Airlines suffered a second day of sharp losses as investors worried about rising costs and the possibility of lower air fares.

Retailers and technology companies slipped, but healthcare companies including Biogen and Celgene rose.

High-dividend stocks such as utilities rallied as bond yields fell, making those stocks more attractive to investors seeking income.

The dollar made a small recovery on Thursday afternoon after President Donald Trump said he wants to see a stronger US currency.

The dollar has fallen to three-year lows, and it fell further on Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there were advantages to the dollar’s weakness over the last year.

Investors took that to mean the administration would not do much to prop up the dollar.

Mr Mnuchin said on Thursday that he supports a stronger dollar over a longer term.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Dow Jones industrial average still rose enough to set more records, but stocks have wobbled this week as investors monitored the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to get a sense of how the Trump administration’s nationalist stance might affect global trade.

Mr Trump is scheduled give a speech there at around 7am Eastern time Friday.

Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist for BTIG, said investors have mostly tuned out political news in the last year, but it might be time for that to change because after a stretch of historic calm in the markets, volatility is rising slightly.

“Economies and earnings are the drivers of the market long term, but politics needs to be respected,” he said.

The S&P 500 inched up 1.71 points, or 0.1%, to 2839.25.

The Dow average climbed 140.67 points, or 0.5%, to 26392.79.

The Nasdaq composite fell 3.89 points to 7411.16.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 2.06 points, or 0.1%, to 1601.67.

Most of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower.

Stocks have been setting record highs regularly for more than a year, and the S&P 500 is up 6.2% this month.

It is on track for its biggest monthly gain since March 2016, a time when the market was recovering after a sharp plunge.

The dollar edged up to 109.41 yen from 109.05 yen and the euro dipped to $1.2391 from $1.2405.

Among airlines, Alaska Air lost $2.62, or 4.1%, to $62.07 and Southwest Airlines sank $2.02, or 3.2%, to $60.19.

They took even bigger losses on Wednesday after United Continental said it plans to add passenger capacity at a faster pace over the next few years.

That could increase the chances of a glut of flights and lower fares at the same time airlines are dealing with higher fuel expenses and higher labor costs.

The Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell more than 9% in December, partly because of severely cold weather.

NVR sank $237.20, or 6.6%, to $3,350 while Lennar fell $2.35, or 3.3%, to $68.47.

Those stocks have made huge gains over the last year because of strong demand for homes and rising prices.

Germany’s Dax lost 0.9% and the CAC 40 in France dipped 0.3%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.1% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.9%. South Korea’s Kospi surged 1%.

Press Association

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