U.S. Stocks Give Up an Early Gain and Move Lower; Yahoo Down

NEW YORK (AP) -

The stock market was heading for a second loss in a row Wednesday. Banks and retailers, which would stand to lose the most if the economy slows down, led the declines.

Chipotle Mexican Grill fell sharply as the company disclosed a federal investigation into its E. coli outbreak, and Yahoo sank as the troubled Internet company announced layoffs and plans to sell businesses.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,135 as of 12:15 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 12 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,891 and the Nasdaq composite fell 50 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,468.

SAFETY: Investors moved money into traditional safety plays: high-dividend companies, U.S. government bonds, and precious metals.

The Dow Jones utility index, a basket of 15 utility companies, rose 1 percent. That index is up more than 8 percent this year. Utilities and other dividend-rich stocks are popular at times of uncertainty because they provide a regular return and are large, mature businesses that tend to stand up well during economic downturns.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note fell to 1.84 percent from 1.85 percent the day before. Gold rose $11.30, or 1 percent, to $1,138.50 an ounce.

BANKING ISSUES: Financial stocks were getting another beat-down. Investors worry that lenders could suffer if more energy companies default on their loans. They also think the Federal Reserve might postpone its interest rate increases, which would have helped banks earn more money by raising the rates they charge on loans.

Bank of America fell 45 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $12.78, Morgan Stanley fell 47 cents, or 2 percent, to $24.01 and JPMorgan Chase fell $1.03, or 2 percent, to $56.00.

ENERGY RECHARGE: Crude oil prices recovered some ground after two days of steep losses. New York crude gained $1.86, or 6 percent, to $31.77 a barrel, while Brent crude, used to price international oils, jumped $1.99, or 6 percent, to $34.71 a barrel in London.

EUROPE WANING TOO: Among the economic worries this week, added to the mix Wednesday, were renewed fears over the slowdown in Europe. A purchasing managers survey by Markit fell in January, a sign that the turmoil in global financial markets is beginning to weigh on business.

CUTBACKS: Yahoo slumped $1.86, or 6 percent, to $27.21 after the company announced late Tuesday it would cut 1,700 jobs and sell some of the company’s struggling businesses.

ON A DIET: Chipotle fell $17.80, or 4 percent, to $457.80 after the company said the E. coli outbreak at its stores hurt sales more than anticipated. Chipotle also disclosed it was now under investigation by Federal regulators over the outbreak.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose against the dollar to $1.1051, the dollar fell against the Japanese yen to 117.89 yen, and the dollar fell against the British pound to $1.4562.