Stocks Waver as Earnings And Central Banks Dominate

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stock indexes essentially hit the snooze bar Thursday as investors were relieved the European Central Bank didn’t announce any changes to its stimulus policies.

Europe’s central bank maintained its current policies and ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank hasn’t even set a date for considering changes. Investors were startled a month ago when he spoke about scaling back the bank’s billions of dollars in monthly bond purchases.

On an up-and-down day of trading, second-quarter results moved other stocks: health care companies including Abbott Laboratories climbed and paint, trucking and railroad companies fell.

Sears announced an online appliance sales pact with Amazon.com, and appliance makers and home improvement stores dropped. But overall the market hardly budged. While stocks have been setting record highs for most of 2017, including Wednesday, the market is having its quietest year in decades.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped at the finish and lost 0.38 points to 2,473.45. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.97 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,611.78. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.96 points, or 0.1 percent, to a record high of 6,390. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 0.58 points to 1,442.35, also a record.

The S&P 500 has only had four moves of 1 percent or greater this year. In a typical year that happens more than 50 times.

Sears said it will begin selling Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com, including smart appliances that can be synced with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. The owner of the Sears and Kmart chains has closed large numbers of stores in recent years and said in March that it might not be able to stay in business. Its stock jumped 92 cents, or 10.6 percent, to $9.60. Even with Thursday’s climb, Sears stock is down 36 percent over the last year.

Home Depot plunged $6.27, or 4.1 percent, to $147.03 as analysts wondered if its appliance sales will be affected. That was Home Depot’s biggest loss in a year and a half, and it wiped 43 points off the Dow average. Lowe’s fell $4.27, or 5.6 percent, to $72.56 and appliance maker Whirlpool dropped $8.60, or 4.3 percent, to $189.74.

Amazon edged up $1.83 to $1,028.70.

Utility company Avista surged after it accepted an offer from Hydro One, the largest power transmitter and distributor in Ontario. It will buy Avista for $5.3 billion, or $53 a share, and Avista stock climbed $8.95, or 20.7 percent, to $52.28.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 33 cents to $46.79 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, sank 40 cents to $49.30 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline dipped 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil also fell 1 cent to $1.54 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Bond prices moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.26 percent from 2.27 percent. High-dividend stocks like utilities climbed, as reduced bond yields make those stocks more appealing to investors who want income.

Gold added $3.50 to $1,245.50 an ounce. Silver rose 5 cents to $16.35 an ounce. Copper gained 1 cent to $2.72 a pound.

The dollar edged up to 111.99 yen from 111.78 yen. The euro gained to $1.1626 from $1.1517.