US stocks finish slightly lower after light day of trading

Friday, December 22, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 51
The Associated Press

A listless day of trading on Wall Street ended with major stock indexes closing slightly lower Tuesday, weighed down by losses among some big technology companies.

Apple slid 2.5 percent amid speculation that the consumer electronics giant might cut its targets for sales of its latest iPhone. Banks also declined, outweighing gains by energy companies and retailers. Oil prices closed higher.

Trading was light as investors returned from the Christmas holiday.

"It's a low-volume day after Christmas, with hardly anything going on," said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. "You have one piece of news that is significant on a major company, Apple. That moved some of the components around."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.84 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,680.50. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 7.85 points, or 0.03 percent, to 24,746.21. The Nasdaq lost 23.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,936.25. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 1.30 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,544.23.

Stocks had finished higher for five straight weeks heading into this week. They are on pace to finish every month this year with gains, when dividends are included.

The major indexes were slightly lower early on and veered little for the rest of the day. It was the lightest day of trading in about a year.

Technology companies pulled the market lower from the get-go, weighed down by chipmakers and Apple, among other big names.

Apple slid after a Taiwanese newspaper reported that the company may cut iPhone X sales targets amid weak sales. The stock declined $4.44 to $170.57.

Chipmaker Micron Technology lost $1.87, or 4.2 percent, to $42.25.

Despite the slide, technology remains the best-performing sector in the S&P 500 this year with a gain of 37.4 percent.

Energy companies posted the biggest gains Tuesday as oil prices rose. Range Resources gained 53 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $16.99.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.50, or 2.6 percent, to settle at $59.97 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose $1.77, or 2.7 percent, to close at $67.02 in London.

Investors also bid up shares in big retail stocks and consumer products companies. Kohl's jumped $3.21, or 6 percent, to $56.87, while Macy's added $1.18, or 4.6 percent, to $26.85.

Traders welcomed the latest corporate deal news.

Sucampo Pharmaceuticals climbed 5.9 percent after it agreed to be acquired by drugmaker Mallinckrodt for $839 million, or $18 a share. Sucampo makes a constipation drug called Amitiza and it had $230 million in total revenue last year. Sucampo added $1 to $18. Mallinckrodt picked up 16 cents to $23.48.

KLX surged 10 percent after the aerospace products and energy services company said it will consider options including a sale. The stock added $6.28 to $69.28.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.79 a gallon. Heating oil added 7 cents to $2.04 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.64 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $8.70, or 0.7 percent, to $1,287.50 an ounce. Silver added 16 cents to $16.60 an ounce. Copper picked up 4 cents to $3.28 a pound.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.47 percent from 2.48 percent late Friday.

The dollar fell to 113.18 yen from 113.31 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1867 from $1.1852.

The price of bitcoin rose 14.4 percent to $15,917 as of 4:45 p.m. ET, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. The price of the digital currency slumped as much as 30 percent on Friday. Bitcoin futures on the Cboe Futures Exchange rose 13.3 percent to settle at $15,810.

The futures contracts allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000. Many economists and market watchers believe bitcoin is in a speculative bubble that could burst any time.

Major markets in Europe were closed for a holiday. In Asia, markets were mixed in light trading. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 0.2 percent, while Seoul's Kospi fell 0.5 percent and India's Sensex gained 0.2 percent. Shares in Taiwan and Singapore declined while Bangkok rose.

Markets in Hong Kong and Australia were also closed for a holiday.