U.S. Stocks Slide, Erasing Early Gains as Oil Price Falls

(AP) -
stocks
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stocks veered lower Friday morning, giving back early gains as the market continued to be gripped by volatile trading. Technology companies and energy stocks accounted for much of the decline. Homebuilders slumped following a report indicating that fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes last month. The market, which is coming off a two-day winning streak, is on track for its worst year since 2008.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,484 as of 11:27 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 45 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,093. The tech-heavy Nasdaq declined 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,567. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 1 point, or 0.1 percent, 1,329.

On Thursday, the Dow erased a 600-point loss and finished with a gain of 260 points. The swing was indicative of the volatility that has gripped the stock market throughout December.

THE QUOTE: “It seems like convulsions in either direction have been the real norm for much of December and that’s certainly been the case this week,” said Eric Wiegand senior portfolio manager for Private Wealth Management at U.S. Bank. “The initial push higher and then seeing it subside a little bit is perhaps getting back to a little bit more of a normal environment, reflecting the reality that we have still a number of issues overhanging the market.”

VOLATILE WEEK: Volatility has been the norm in December as investors have grown worried that the testy U.S.-China trade dispute and higher interest rates would slow the economy, hurting corporate profits. The Dow has dropped 1 percent or more in eight of the last 17 trading sessions. The market’s sharp downturn since October has intensified this month, erasing all of its 2018 gains and nudging the S&P 500 closer to its worst year since 2008. Even with the two-day winning streak heading into Friday, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq are all down more than 9 percent for the month and stocks are on track for their worst December since 1931.

HOUSE OF PAIN: Homebuilders fell broadly after the National Association of Realtors said its pending-home-sales index fell last month as fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes. Higher mortgage rates and prices are squeezing would-be buyers out of the market, especially in the West. Beazer Homes USA dropped 1.7 percent to $9.53.

TECH SLIDES: Technology companies, a big driver of the market’s gains before things deteriorated in October, declined. Adobe slid 1.4 percent to $221.95.

MORE OVERSIGHT: Tesla rose 2.1 percent to $322.88 after naming two independent directors to its board under an agreement with federal regulators.

ENERGY: Oil prices lost some of their early momentum. Benchmark U.S. crude was up 0.4 percent to $44.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, turned lower, shedding 0.5 percent to $52.45 a barrel in London.

Energy-sector stocks declined. Cabot Oil & Gas slid 3.3 percent to $22.98, while Newfield Exploration lost 2.7 percent to $14.11.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held at 2.74 percent.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 110.39 yen from Thursday’s 110.74 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1442 from $1.1449.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 1.7 percent and France’s CAC 40 added 1.6 percent. London’s FTSE 100 gained 2 percent. Major indexes in Asia finished mostly higher. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended 0.1 percent higher. Seoul’s Kospi added 0.6 percent. India’s Sensex gained 1 percent. Benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and Singapore also rose.