Stocks Slip From Highs as Energy Companies Sink; Dow Gains

NEW YORK ( AP) -

U.S. stocks slipped Wednesday after their recent record-setting run. Energy companies stumbled, but basic materials makers rose as investors hoped two large deals will win approval from regulators.

While energy stocks fell with the price of oil, most other sectors didn’t make big moves. Technology companies eked out a small gain. They have risen every day this month to reach their highest mark since 2000. DuPont and Dow Chemical rose after Reuters reported that European officials could approve their merger soon. The Dow Jones industrial average made its ninth straight gain.

After an extended streak of gains, investors didn’t make many big moves. They spent most of the day waiting for the minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting three weeks ago, but those minutes contained few surprises. Bond prices rose and yields dipped.

The Dow average rose 32.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,775.60. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 2.56 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,362.82. The Nasdaq composite shed 5.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,860.63. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks slid 6.49 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,403.86. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

All four indexes closed at record highs Tuesday.

DuPont climbed $2.63, or 3.4 percent, to $79.80 and Dow Chemical gained $2.45, or 4 percent, to $63.67. Reuters reported that regulators in the European Union are close to approving their $62 billion combination. Antitrust officials in the U.S. and elsewhere would still have to approve that deal.

Investors appeared to grow more optimistic about a second deal in the chemicals industry: Monsanto, which has accepted a $57 billion offer from Bayer but is also waiting for regulatory approval, rose 81 cents to $111.38.

Energy companies traded lower as benchmark U.S. crude lost 74 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $53.59 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oils, fell 34 cents to $55.84 a barrel in London.

Food and consumer products company Unilever rose after it said it will quickly review its options to find ways to increase value for shareholders. Kraft Heinz went public Friday with an offer to buy the company for $143 billion, but it withdrew that offer over the weekend after Unilever said it wasn’t big enough. Unilever regained $2.06, or 4.6 percent, to $46.93 after a 7.5 percent skid Tuesday.

Technology companies wavered but finished with a small gain thanks to Facebook, which jumped $2.40, or 1.8 percent, to $136.12. The S&P 500’s technology index has gained ground every day in February and is up 10 percent this year. That index is at its highest level since July 2000, four months after the dot-com boom had peaked.

The dollar slipped to 113.12 yen from 113.58 yen. The euro rose to $1.0568 from $1.0547.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil dipped 1 cent to $1.63 a gallon. Natural gas edged up 3 cents to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold slipped $5.60 to $1,233.30 an ounce. Silver lost 5 cents to $17.95 an ounce. Copper fell 1 cent to $2.73 a pound.

Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.4 percent and Germany’s DAX added 0.3 percent. In France, the CAC 40 picked up 0.1 percent. The Japanese Nikkei 225 finished unchanged while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong jumped 1 percent.