KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,841 as of 12:23 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped six points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,980. The Nasdaq composite lost 21 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,682.
FEVERISH: Small losses for big drug companies pulled health care stocks lower. Merck fell 90 cents to $51.38, while Botox maker Allergan lost $4.48, or 1.5 percent, to $287.90 and Biogen fell $6.59, or 2.4 percent, to $267.08.
EARNINGS: Supermarket operator Kroger dropped $3.53, or 8.7 percent, to $37.12 after investors were disappointed with its quarterly sales and its forecasts. Warehouse club operator Costco lost $2.29, or 1.5 percent, to $150.55 after its profit and sales came up short of Wall Street’s forecasts.
Mining equipment maker Joy Global climbed $1.89, or 14.2 percent, to $15.21 after its first-quarter sales were stronger than expected. 3D printer maker Stratasys rose $2.95, or 14.1 percent, to $23.84. The company’s fourth-quarter results were better than expected and it gave a strong forecast for 2016.
OIL: The price of U.S. crude wavered. Just after noon, it lost 14 cents to $34.52 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, fell 12 cents to $36.81 a barrel in London. Energy stocks continued to rise after making big gains a day earlier.
Still, energy stocks continued to rise. ConocoPhillips rose 80 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $37.29 and Marathon Petroleum added $1.82, or 5.2 percent, to $36.53.
METALS: Metals prices climbed, with gold, silver, and copper each rising a bit more than 1 percent. Gold rose to $1,256.10 an ounce and silver traded at $15.18 an ounce. Copper advanced to $2.20 a pound.
U.S. ECONOMY: The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories grew 1.6 percent in January, the biggest gain in seven months. A category that measures business investment rose by the largest amount in 19 months.
OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX both fell 0.3 percent. France’s CAC 40 declined 0.2 percent. Asian markets closed mostly higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.3 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.3 percent to 19,941.76.
CHINA OUTLOOK: Chinese leaders were expected to lower their growth target during the upcoming gathering of the National People’s Congress this week as China seeks more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015’s goal of about 7 percent.
CURRENCIES: Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 1.83 percent from 1.84 percent late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.0950 from $1.0868 and the dollar edged up to 113.52 yen from 113.45 yen.