Stocks edge lower again, weighed down by the energy sector

Friday, February 19, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 8

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell Friday as the price of oil retreated and pulled energy company shares down, but the market remains on track for its best week of the year. Retail stocks are sliding further after a disappointing report from department store operator Nordstrom.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 65 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,348 as of 2:57 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 6 points, or 0.4 percent, at 1,912. The Nasdaq composite picked up 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,490 as tech stocks attracted more interest than the broader market.

Stocks have been little changed over the last two days. But thanks to big jumps on Tuesday and Wednesday, the S&P 500 is on pace for its best week of 2016. The Nasdaq, which has plunged 10 percent this year, is on pace for its best week in three months.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.13, or 3.7 percent, to $29.64 a barrel in New York. It climbed 17 percent over the previous week. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, slid $1.27, or 3.7 percent, to $33.01.

That sent oil and gas stocks tumbling. Southwestern Energy dropped $1.42, or 16.8 percent, to $7.07 and Murphy Oil fell $1.60, or 9.4 percent, to $15.41.

TECH RISES: Chipmaking equipment company Applied Materials climbed after it reported stronger-than-expected profit and sales. Its stock climbed $1.23, or 7.2 percent, to $18.41.

Yahoo rose 60 cents, or 2 percent, to $30.02 after the Internet company said it has created a committee of independent directors and hired advisers as part of an effort to redefine itself. Big shareholders are pushing Yahoo to sell its main Internet business. The company eliminated 15 percent of its staff earlier this month.

SIGNS OF INFLATION: The Labor Department said prices for consumer goods have risen 1.4 percent over the last year, a sign that the pace of inflation is picking up and the economy is improving. The combination of a strong dollar and cheaper oil has suppressed inflation across much of the economy, but prices of other goods have been rising.

THE QUOTE: Michael Scanlon, managing director and portfolio manager for John Hancock Asset Management, said consumers are still spending plenty of money on cars, homes and travel even though some retailers are struggling. He thinks that spending is going to grow.

"People feel more stable in their jobs with increasing wages (and) home prices continue to rise," he said.

Gas prices are also very low, and while consumers have mostly saved that money instead of spending it, Scanlon thinks that's going to change. Gas prices have stayed low for more than a year, and he thinks shoppers will start to trust that pump prices are going to stay depressed.

SHOPPING AROUND: Retailers struggled again after holiday-season results from department store operator Nordstrom disappointed Wall Street. The company said its sales were weaker than it expected and its profits were hurt because it had to match discounts offered by competitors.

Nordstrom gave up $3.47, or 6.6 percent, to $49.25 while Macy's fell 96 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $40.17. Retail stocks also stumbled Thursday after Wal-Mart reported weak quarterly sales and cut its forecasts for the year.

Department stores have struggled since they disclosed weak third-quarter results in November. Nordstrom is down 22 percent since its report a little more than three months ago.

DEERE DOWN: Agricultural equipment company Deere lowered its sales forecast for the year as sales of farm and construction remain weak. That canceled out first-quarter results that were better than analysts expected. Deere stock lost $3.52, or 4.4 percent, to $76.81.

PAID OFF: WageWorks stock added $1.80, or 4.3 percent, to $43.86. The provider of health, commuter and other employee benefits reported stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

OVERSEAS: European stocks fell as the leaders of Britain and the rest of the 28-country European Union entered a second day of talks on how to reform the country's membership in the bloc. The talks are stalled over a series of issues, including immigration rights.

Germany's DAX fell 0.8 percent, while France's CAC 40 and Britain's FTSE 100 both declined 0.4 percent. Asian stocks were mixed, as Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 1.4 percent and South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China inched down 0.1 percent.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline fell 1.3 cents to 95.9 cents. Heating oil lost 5.4 cents, or 5 percent, to $1.026 a gallon. Natural gas slid 4.8 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $1.804 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: The price of gold increased $4.50 to $1,230.80 an ounce and silver fell 5.9 cents to $15.373 an ounce. Copper held steady at $2.068 a pound.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices ticked lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.76 percent from 1.74 percent. The euro rose to $1.1132 from $1.1094 Thursday. The dollar fell to 112.55 yen from 113.57 yen.