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Business

US Stocks Slip Again as Energy Companies, Drugmakers Slide

While low oil prices are good news for consumers and many businesses, the market has slumped in recent weeks when oil declined

Joseph Lawler
2 years ago

U.S. stocks dipped Tuesday afternoon as energy and materials companies fell along with the price of oil and precious metals. Drug companies were pummeled again on investor concerns that it will become more difficult for the companies to hike prices. Stocks overseas fell after the Bank of Japan cut its economic forecasts.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 37 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,192 as of 12:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 11 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,008. The Nasdaq composite index fell 30 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,720.

Trading has been relatively calm this week as investors wait for the Federal Reserve’s Open Markets Committee to meet and make its remarks on interest rates and the economy. The meeting ends Wednesday, and while the Fed is not expected to raise interest rates, investors will pore over the Fed’s views on the economy and look for hints about its plans. In December the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, but it left them unchanged in January.

Energy stocks took the biggest losses as oil prices fell sharply for the second day in a row. Benchmark U.S. crude shed $1.15, or 3.1 percent, to $36.03 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost $1.08, or 2.7 percent, to $38.45 per barrel in London.

Specialist Paul Cosentino waits for trading to begin on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled in the first minutes of trading as falling commodity prices again pulled energy and materials companies lower. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Specialist Paul Cosentino waits for trading to begin on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Photo: AP/Richard Drew.

Chevron gave up $1.91, or 2 percent, to $92.35 and Murphy Oil gave up 64 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $23.10.

While low oil prices are good news for consumers and many businesses, the market has slumped in recent weeks when oil declined. That’s in part because investors fear that the falling prices are a sign the global economy is weakening.

Mining companies fell with metals prices. The price of gold fell about 1 percent to $1,233.60 an ounce and silver sank 1.3 percent to $15.32 an ounce. Mining and energy company Freeport-McMoRan fell 76 cents, or 7.6 percent, to $9.22.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ preliminary fourth-quarter profit disappointed investors and the company cut its estimates for 2016. It’s already under scrutiny from Congress over drug prices and it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The stock plunged $32.78, or 47.5 percent, to $36.27, its lowest price since late 2011.

Acquiring older drugs and raising their prices is a key part of Valeant’s business, and it’s one of a group of stocks that have tumbled as Congress has questioned that practice. On Tuesday Mallinckrodt lost $7.17, or 10.3 percent, to $62.44 and Endo International fell $2.34, or 5.6 percent, to $39.74. Valeant stock has fallen more than 80 percent over the last six months, while Endo is down about 50 percent. Mallincrkodt has dropped about 50 percent since early August.

Other drugmakers that slumped included multiple sclerosis medication maker Biogen, which gave up $7.89, or 3.1 percent, to $249.88, and eye drug maker Regeneron, which shed $8.40, or 2.3 percent, to $364.87.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly fell on concerns surrounding the potential approval of a drug designed to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The company said Tuesday it is changing the goal of a late-stage trial, and investors worried the change makes it less likely regulators will approve the drug. The stock gave up $2.93, or 4 percent, to $70.98.

Kevin Lodewick, center, works with fellow traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. U.S. stocks tumbled in the first minutes of trading as falling commodity prices again pulled energy and materials companies lower. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stocks tumbled in the first minutes of trading as falling commodity prices again pulled energy and materials companies lower. Photo: AP/Richard Drew.

The Commerce Department said retail sales slipped in February, as consumers spent less and remain cautious about the state of the economy in spite of steady hiring. Sales fell 0.1 percent compared with a year earlier, though they improved if gas and auto sales are left out. The government also said sales fell in January, changing an earlier estimate that spending increased.

Spending by consumers makes up 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Outerwall, the company behind Coinstar coin-counting kiosks and Redbox disc-rental kiosks, indicated it may look to sell itself by saying it will seek “strategic and financial alternatives” to boost value for its shareholders. It also doubled its quarterly dividend. The stock added $2.95, or 8.6 percent, to $37.34.

Apple gained $2.33, or 2.3 percent, to $104.85 after a Morgan Stanley analyst said first-quarter iPhone sales look stronger than Wall Street had expected.

The Bank of Japan left its monetary policy unchanged Tuesday but downgraded its assessment of conditions in the world’s third-largest economy, citing risks from weaker growth in China and other emerging economies and volatility in financial markets, among other factors. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.7 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.7 percent Seoul’s Kospi was off 0.1 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.2 percent.

France’s CAC-40 lost 0.9 percent and Germany’s DAX shed 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 declined 0.5 percent.

Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note dipped to 1.95 percent from 1.96 percent. The euro edged up to $1.1107 from $1.1097 and the dollar slipped to 112.88 yen from 113.80 yen. The British pound fell to $1.4162 amid renewed jitters about the June popular vote on whether to remain in the 28-country European Union. The pound fell to a seven-year low last month.

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