U.S. stock indexes struggled to a mixed close Tuesday as energy companies fell with the price of oil, overcoming gains in utilities and phone companies.
Investors sold household goods makers after a report showed consumers are growing more worried about business and job market conditions.
Stocks were lower for most of the day after the Conference Board said consumer confidence fell for the second month in a row and reached its lowest level in six months.
In the afternoon stocks fell further following comments from the energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, the second-largest Arab economy. His remarks suggested there isn’t a lot of urgency in addressing a global glut in oil supplies. Despite the losses, stocks finished May with solid gains.
The price of oil has almost doubled since early February, and U.A.E. Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazroui said he is “optimistic” about the state of the energy market. Ministers from OPEC nations will meet in Vienna this week.
David Schiegoleit, managing director of investments for the private client reserve at U.S. Bank, said he thinks oil won’t go much higher unless the global economy improves or major nations start spending more.
“We do see $50 as sort of high end” until then, he said.
The& Dow& Jones industrial average lost 86.02 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,787.20. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.11 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,096.95. The Nasdaq composite index gained 14.55 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,948.05.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 23 cents to $49.10 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gave up 7 cents to $49.69 a barrel in London.
Chevron fell $1.02, or 1 percent, to $101 and Exxon Mobil shed 99 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $89.02.
Meanwhile investors searched for a sense of how consumers, who drive a large portion of the U.S. economy, are behaving. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 1 percent in April as purchases of cars and other long-lasting goods increased. Wages and salaries, the most important component of incomes, gained 0.5 percent. That suggests the U.S. economy could pick up in the second quarter after six months of sluggish growth.
Economists at the Conference Board said consumer confidence fell for the second month in a row and reached its lowest level since November. The board said consumers are feeling cautious about business and job market conditions, and they anticipate little change in the months ahead. That was a surprise since a similar survey by the University of Michigan on Friday showed consumers were the most optimistic they’ve been in a year.
Companies that make household goods like food, drinks, cleaners and other everyday items slipped. Beer and wine maker Constellation Brands lost $4.68, or 3 percent, to $153.15 and Clorox gave up $1.16 to $128.54.
Despite the dip in consumer confidence, Erik Davidson, the chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank, said Americans are gradually spending more and getting over the shocks of the financial crisis and Great Recession.
“There’s probably never been a better time to be a consumer than right now,” Davidson said. He noted that the job market remains solid, wages are inching higher and a strong dollar is making goods produced overseas less expensive.
Westar Energy, the biggest utility company in Kansas, surged after Great Plains Energy agreed to buy it for $8.5 billion, or $60 per share in cash and stock. The deal will give Great Plains a total of 1.5 million customers in Kansas and Missouri. Westar climbed $3.41, or 6.4 percent, to $56.33 and Great Plains Energy slid $1.82, or 5.9 percent, to $29.18.
Westar’s gains helped pull utility companies higher. Also contributing were gains in bond prices, which sent yields lower and made utility and phone company stocks more appealing to investors seeking income. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.84 percent from 1.86 late Friday. Verizon Communications rose 28 cents to $50.90.
Boeing slumped after the U.S. Air Force announced new delays for the company’s KC-46 Pegasus Tanker, a midair refueling plane. Boeing lost $3.07, or 2.5 percent, to $126.15.
Jazz Pharmaceuticals said it will buy cancer drug developer Celator Pharmaceuticals for $30.25 per share, or $1.28 billion. Celator’s most advanced drug is Vyxeos, a potential treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. Jazz also makes cancer drugs but gets most of its revenue from Xyrem, a drug used to treat side effects of narcolepsy. Celator soared $12.55, or 71.6 percent, to $30.08 and Jazz stock lost 53 cents to $151.56.
Germany’s DAX fell 0.7 percent, while France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.6 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 1 percent higher, while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 0.9 percent.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil was unchanged at $1.50 a gallon. Natural gas climbed 12 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $2.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose 80 cents to $1,217.50 an ounce. That ended an eight-day losing streak in gold prices. Silver fell 28 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $15.99 an ounce. Copper fell 2 cents to $2.10 per pound.
The dollar strengthened to 110.59 yen from 110.38 yen. The euro rose to $1.1126 from $1.1114.