Losses for Airlines, Tech Mostly Offset Other Stock Gains

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks spent a second day flipping between small gains and losses Thursday as investors again looked for hints about the Trump administration’s stance on international trade and the dollar. Major indexes ended the day mixed as airlines plunged while biotech drugmakers climbed.

Homebuilders fell sharply after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes dropped in December. Airlines suffered a second day of sharp losses as investors worried about rising costs and the possibility of lower air fares. Retailers and technology companies slipped, but health care companies including Biogen and Celgene rose.

The dollar edged up to 109.41 yen from 109.05 yen and the euro dipped to $1.2391 from $1.2405.

The S&P 500 inched up 1.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,839.25. The Dow average climbed 140.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 26,392.79. The Nasdaq composite fell 3.89 points to 7,411.16. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 2.06 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,601.67. Most stocks on the New York Stock Exchange closed lower.

Stocks have been setting record highs regularly for more than a year, and the S&P 500 is up 6.2 percent this month.

Among airlines, Alaska Air lost $2.62, or 4.1 percent, to $62.07 and Southwest Airlines sank $2.02, or 3.2 percent, to $60.19. They took even bigger losses Wednesday after United Continental said it plans to add passenger capacity at a faster pace over the next few years. That could increase the chances of a glut of flights and lower fares at the same time airlines deal with higher fuel expenses.

The Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell more than 9 percent in December, partly because of severely cold weather. NVR sank $237.20, or 6.6 percent, to $3,350 while Lennar fell $2.35, or 3.3 percent, to $68.47. Those stocks have made huge gains over the last year because of strong demand for homes and rising prices.

Newell Brands, which makes Sharpie pens and Elmer’s glue, plunged to its lowest price in almost five years after it again lowered its forecasts for 2017 and said it will consider selling numerous businesses including Rubbermaid. That’s a sharp change in direction for Newell, which less than two years ago paid $13 billion to buy Rubbermaid’s parent company Jarden.

Newell also said three directors resigned from its board. The stock plunged $6.42, or 20.6 percent, to $24.81.

Bond prices turned higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.62 percent from 2.65 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 10 cents to $65.51 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 41 cents to $70.94 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline remained at $1.92 a gallon. Heating oil rose 1 cent to $2.12 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6 cents to $3.45 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold picked up $6.60 to $1,362.90 an ounce, and after strong gains over the last few days it’s at its highest price since August 2016. Silver gained 13 cents to $17.62 an ounce. Copper fell 1 cent to $3.22 a pound.

Germany’s DAX lost 0.9 percent and the British FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent. The CAC 40 in France dipped 0.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.9 percent. South Korea’s Kospi surged 1 percent.