U.S. Stock Indexes Notch Modest Losses; Oil Prices Surge

NEW YORK (AP) -

A slide in technology and consumer-focused companies helped pull U.S. stock indexes modestly lower Thursday, offsetting strong energy sector gains.

A broad swath of retailers, from department stores to fast-food chains, also notched losses, while most of the big gainers were oil production and drilling companies.

They got a boost from a report indicating fuel stockpiles fell precipitously last week. The price of U.S. crude also jumped on the report, and closed nearly 5 percent higher.

U.S. bond yields also surged, as traders reacted to the European Central Bank’s decision to leave its key interest rates unchanged and hold off on extending a stimulus program.

Still, in the absence of any major new economic data, the stock indexes continued a recent pattern of mostly sluggish trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 46.23 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,479.91. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 4.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,181.30.

The sell-off in technology stocks weighed on the Nasdaq composite index, which fell 24.44 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,259.48. The tech-heavy index set all-time highs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Apple slid 2.6 percent a day after the consumer electronics giant introduced its newest slate of products, including a new iPhone that doesn’t come with an analog headphone jack. The stock shed $2.84 to $105.52.

Several oil drilling and production companies rose on the latest oil stockpiles figures, pushing the S&P 500’s energy sector 1.7 percent higher. The sector is up 17.4 percent this year.

Traders also bid up crude oil prices. Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.12, or 4.7 percent, to close at $47.62 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $2.01, or 4.2 percent, to $49.99 in London.

The news out of the European Central Bank helped ease demand for U.S. bonds, driving their prices lower and pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.60 percent from 1.54 percent late Wednesday.

At a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi seemed relatively confident about the economy and less inclined to hint at more stimulus than some analysts had expected.

He urged governments to do their part. News of the ECB’s decisions weighed on most of Europe’s major stock indexes.

Earlier, some markets in Asia closed higher following a report showing that imports rose in China last month for the first time since late 2014, while a contraction in exports narrowed. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.8 percent. Seoul’s Kospi added 0.1 percent, while India’s Sensex rose 0.3 percent to 29,006.18. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 7 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $1.42 a gallon. Heating oil added 6 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $1.48 a gallon. Natural gas rose 13 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $2.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Among metals, gold slid $7.60 to $1,341.60 an ounce, while silver fell 17 cents to $19.68 an ounce. Copper held steady at $2.10 a pound.

In currency markets, the dollar strengthened to 102.49 yen from 101.75 on Wednesday. The euro climbed to $1.1257 from $1.1245.