Stocks Waver Again as Chipmakers Jump and Drug Companies Dip


Stocks finished mostly higher Thursday as another day of mixed trading showed the market’s recent rally losing some strength. Chipmakers rose, while drugmakers fell.

Chipmakers Xilinx and Lam Research soared and many of their peers also climbed as investors saw signs of life in the business.

About two-thirds of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange closed with gains, but major stock indexes didn’t move much. Drugmakers including Merck and Pfizer took sharp losses, and spice maker McCormick had its biggest drop in 13 years. Other household products companies also sank.

The S&P 500 index rose 3.63 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,642.33. The benchmark U.S. index is up 12.4 percent over the last month, but it’s slipped 1.1 percent this week after big gains in each of the past four weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 22.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,553.24.

Thanks to the big gains for technology companies, the Nasdaq composite added 47.69 points, or 0.7 percent, to 7,073.46. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks gained 10.15 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,464.41.

Xilinx surged 18.4 percent to $106.06 after its third-quarter results topped expectations. The company said it’s benefiting from the expansion of 5G wireless networks in South Korea and preparations for deployment in China and North America, while several automakers are talking about using Xilinx products in autonomous cars. It made its biggest gain in 27 years.

Lam Research gained 15.7 percent to $161.20, its best day in 14 years, and Texas Instruments rallied 6.9 percent to $102.09 after their reports. Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, gained 3.8 percent to $49.76.

But if the companies are on the road to recovery, the ride doesn’t look smooth. Intel tumbled 7.1 percent in aftermarket trading after its fourth-quarter results and its forecasts for the current year both disappointed investors.

American Airlines rallied 6.4 percent to $33.66 after reporting solid results in its latest quarter, and Southwest climbed 6.3 percent to $54.21. Southwest said the partial shutdown of the federal government could cost it up to $15 million in revenue this month, echoing Delta’s statement that it could lose $25 million in revenue. While that’s noticeable, it’s a relatively small portion of their total revenue.

Among drug companies, Merck fell 3 percent to $73.17 and Pfizer lost 2.9 percent to $40.95 while Eli Lily slid 3.2 percent to $114.99.

Utility company PG&E surged 74.6 percent to $13.95 after investigators ruled that the company was not at fault for a North California wildfire that killed 22 people in 2017. The stock has plunged since November on concerns the company might be liable for billions of dollars in damages.

Bond prices moved higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.71 percent from 2.75 percent.

U.S. crude oil rose 1 percent to $53.13 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 0.1 percent to $61.09 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline and heating oil both finished little changed, at $1.39 a gallon and $1.89 a gallon, respectively. Natural gas jumped 4 percent to $3.10 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar edged up to 109.67 yen from 109.59 yen. The euro fell to $1.1299 from $1.1383.