U.S. Stocks Snap 2-Day Winning Streak, Close Slightly Lower

(AP) -

A day of mostly listless trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with U.S. stocks giving back modest gains from the day before.

Telecom sector stocks declined the most, weighed down by a slide in shares of AT&T, Sprint and other phone companies. Only health care stocks eked out a gain. The broad slide snapped a two-day winning streak for the market. Energy futures and precious metals also closed lower.

Investors mostly waded through another round of earnings reports, looking to glean insights into the health of corporate America and the U.S. economy. While some companies turned in disappointing results, most of those that have posted earnings so far are beating financial analysts’ expectations, said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“Overall, it’s been a very, very good earnings season,” Kinahan said.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 40.27 points, or 0.2 percent, to 18,162.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 2.95 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,141.34. The Nasdaq composite index slid 4.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,241.83.

The major stock indexes are all up for the week.

About 15 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported quarterly results so far this earnings period. Of those, more than 80 percent have turned in earnings that beat Wall Street’s expectations, Kinahan said.

Financial companies have been among the best performers so far.

On Thursday, investors bid up shares in American Express, which reported better-than-anticipated earnings late Wednesday and also raised its annual outlook. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing $5.53, or 9 percent, to $66.78.

“Financials continue to perform and continue to provide support, American Express being the latest example,” Kinahan said.

Toy maker Mattel also got a boost a day after it reported strong earnings. The stock rose $1.84, or 6 percent, to $32.46.

Snap-on climbed 6.7 percent after the tool and diagnostic equipment maker posted a larger profit than analysts had forecast. Its shares rose $9.95 to $159.06.

Several other companies posted results that failed to impress investors.

EBay slumped 10.8 percent after the e-commerce giant reported disappointing fourth-quarter results. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, sliding $3.50, or 10.8 percent, to $29.02.

Union Pacific fell 6.7 percent after it said weak demand for consumer goods had dampened its freight and coal shipments volume. The railroad operator lost $6.48 to $90.64.

Verizon fell 2.5 percent after the company posted weak quarterly revenue as it added far fewer wireless and internet service subscribers than a year ago. Shares in the company, which is in the process of a potential acquisition of Yahoo’s digital operations, shed $1.24 to $49.14.

Shares in other phone companies also fell. AT&T lost 73 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $38.65, while Sprint fell 16 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $6.72. T-Mobile US slid 27 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $47.05.

Beyond earnings, traders also weighed some new economic data Thursday.

The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level in five weeks, though it remained close to a recent 43-year low. Separately, the National Association of Realtors said that sales of previously owned homes rose 3.2 percent from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million, the strongest pace since June.

Stock indexes in Europe closed higher. Germany’s DAX gained 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC-40 rose 0.4 percent. London’s FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent. Earlier in Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.17, or 2.3 percent, to close at $50.43 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slid $1.29, or 2.4 percent, to close at $51.38 a barrel in London.

Other energy futures also closed lower. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.49 a gallon. Heating oil slid 3 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Natural gas lost 3 cents to $3.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In metals trading, the price of gold fell $2.40 to $1,267.50 an ounce, while silver lost 11 cents to $17.55 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.10 a pound.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 1.75 percent.

In currency markets, the dollar increased to 103.96 yen from 103.39 on Wednesday, while the euro weakened to $1.0928 from $1.2275.