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VOL. 41 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 17, 2017

Stocks slip from record highs as energy companies sink

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are mostly lower Wednesday after their recent record-setting run. Energy and industrial companies are slipping while basic materials makers are rising as investors hope two large deals will win approval from regulators. The Dow Jones industrial average is on track for its ninth straight gain.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow average rose 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,774 as of 3:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,363. The Nasdaq composite shed 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,861. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks slid 7 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,403. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

All four indexes closed at record highs Tuesday.

ONE STEP CLOSER: DuPont climbed $2.48, or 3.2 percent, to $79.66 and Dow Chemical gained $2.42, or 4 percent, to $63.64 following reports that regulators in the European Union are close to approving their $62 billion combination. Antitrust officials in the U.S. and elsewhere would still have to approve that deal.
Investors appeared to grow more optimistic about a second deal in the chemicals industry: Monsanto, which has accepted a $57 billion offer from Bayer but is also waiting for regulatory approval, rose 96 cents to $111.53.

FED MINUTES: The Federal Reserve released minutes from its most recent meeting. Officials discussed the importance of raising their primary interest rate soon, especially if the economy stays strong. Some Fed officials were worried that if interest rates stay too low, the expanding economy could cause inflation to rise too fast.

Investors don't generally expect the Fed to raise interest rates at its next meeting in March. But bond prices changed course and turned higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.42 percent from 2.43 percent late Tuesday.

THE QUOTE: Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones, said the Fed's decision-makers are also waiting to learn more about the Trump administration's policy proposals and Congress' reaction to them. That might take a few months.

"They want to see the data, they want to see more on inflation, and they would like more certainty about any fiscal policy changes," she said.

ACTIVISTS STAY BUSY: Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb rose 57 cents, or 1 percent, to $55.36 after the Wall Street Journal reported that billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought a stake in the company. Icahn has not confirmed his investment. Just a day earlier, after Bristol-Myers reached a deal with another activist investor, Jana Partners. It will add three new directors to its board and spend $2 billion to buy back stock. Bristol-Myers stock traded at $75 in early August but plunged as investors worry that its lung cancer drug Opdivo will lose sales to other treatments.

ON THE REBOUND: Food and consumer products company Unilever rose after it said it will quickly review its options to find ways to raise value for shareholders. Kraft Heinz went public Friday with an offer to buy the company for $143 billion, but it withdrew that offer over the weekend after Unilever said it wasn't big enough. Unilever regained $2.06, or 4.6 percent, to $46.93 after a 7.5 percent skid Tuesday.

OIL: Energy companies traded lower as benchmark U.S. crude lost 74 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $53.59 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, fell 34 cents to $55.84 a barrel in London.

Oil and gas company Concho Resources slid $9.85, or 7 percent, to $131.50 after a weak fourth-quarter report and Newfield Exploration declined $3.32, or 7.8 percent, to $39.17 as analysts expressed concerns about its forecasts for the current year.

ALL THAT GLITTERS: Gold and copper mining company Newmont Mining posted a smaller profit and less revenue than analysts expected. The company forecast greater costs, and it also took $970 million in charges that are related to expenses at a mine it is closing. Its stock gave up $1.35, or 3.6 percent, to $36.09.

TECH SLOWS: Technology companies wavered between small gains and losses. Intel fell 50 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $36.02 but Facebook climbed $2.45, or 1.8 percent, to $136.17. The S&P 500's technology index is barely higher. It has gained ground every day in February and is up 10 percent this year. That has brought that index to its highest level since July 2000, when the dot-com bubble was beginning to burst but had not totally collapsed.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 113.12 yen from 113.58 yen. The euro rose to $1.0568 from $1.0547.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil dipped 1 cent to $1.63 a gallon. Natural gas edged up 3 cents to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold slipped $5.60 to $1,233.30 an ounce. Silver lost 5 cents to $17.95 an ounce. Copper fell 1 cent to $2.73 a pound.

OVERSEAS: Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent and Germany's DAX added 0.3 percent. In France, the CAC 40 picked up 0.1 percent. The Japanese Nikkei 225 finished unchanged while South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong jumped 1 percent.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay

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