U.S. Stock Indexes Edge Mostly Lower in Afternoon Trading

(AP) -

A steep slide in pharmaceutical companies pulled U.S. stock indexes mostly lower in afternoon trading Wednesday. The health care sector slumped after President-elect Donald Trump said the government needs to overhaul how it buys drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Energy companies rose the most as crude oil prices headed higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 42 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,898 as of 2:10 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,267. The Nasdaq composite index fell 14 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,537. The Nasdaq has closed at a record high the past four days in a row.

TRUMP FACTOR: During a press conference Wednesday morning, Trump said the government has to create new bidding procedures for the pharmaceutical industry “because they’re getting away with murder.” The remarks sent health care stocks broadly lower. Several pharmaceutical companies slumped, with Endo International falling 9.1 percent, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The stock slid $1.40 to $13.91. Perrigo fell $6.31, or 7.5 percent, to $77.34. Mallinckrodt tumbled $3.84, or 7.1 percent, to $49.91.

UNAPPETIZING RESULTS: SuperValu slid 7.5 percent after the grocery store operator announced a weak third-quarter profit, partly because of falling food prices. The stock fell 36 cents to $4.43.

SALES SLUMP: Signet Jewelers fell 3.9 percent after the company cut its profit forecast for the fourth quarter and current fiscal year. Signet said its total sales fell 5 percent over the holidays, citing technical problems at its e-commerce business. The stock fell $3.45 to $84.01.

DISAPPOINTING FORECAST: Auto parts supplier BorgWarner was down 1.7 percent after it issued a profit and sales forecast that fell short of what Wall Street was anticipating. The stock shed 71 cents to reach $40.07.

FASTER IS BETTER: Drugmaker Merck rose 2.1 percent on news that the Food and Drug Administration will do a quick review of one of the company’s drugs for its potential to treat a type of lung cancer. The stock rose $1.25 to $61.17.

HEALTHY OUTLOOK: Intuitive Surgical gained 2.1 percent after the robotic surgical systems maker delivered a strong fourth-quarter sales forecast. The stock rose $13.98 to $676.18.

EARNINGS SEASON: Big U.S. companies start reporting fourth-quarter earnings this week. On Friday JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America release their results. Still, investors had their eye on a few companies that released quarterly results Wednesday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was essentially flat. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent. In Asia, a strong earnings forecast from Samsung Electronics helped drive gains on the South Korean stock market, where the Kospi added 1.5 percent and hit its highest close in over a year. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up $1.74, or 3.4 percent, at $52.56 a barrel in New York, having lost $1.14 the day before. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, was up $1.80, or 3.4 percent, at $55.44 a barrel in London.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.35 percent from 2.38 percent late Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The pound continued to weaken amid concern that Britain might break off completely from the European Union’s single market. The currency was trading at $1.2226, down from $1.2163 the day before. The dollar fell to 114.74 yen from 115.73 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.0595 from $1.0560.

METALS: The price of gold rose $11.10 to $1,196.60 an ounce. Silver slipped 2 cents to $16.83 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.61 a pound.