U.S. Stocks Decline, Breaking S&P 500’s 3-Day Winning Streak

NEW YORK (AP) -

Health care and energy companies led U.S. stocks lower Thursday, ending a three-day winning streak for the S&P 500 and giving the benchmark index only its fourth loss this month.

The modest sell-off came as investors weighed mixed economic data and company earnings reports while keeping an eye on Washington, where U.S. and Chinese negotiators resumed high-level talks aimed at ending their costly trade dispute. Treasury yields rose and the price of gold fell.

The S&P 500, which has risen for the past three weeks, fell 9.82 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,774.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 103.81 points, or 0.4 percent, to 25,850.63.

The Nasdaq composite declined 29.36 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,459.71. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 6.11 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,575.55.

Major European indexes finished mostly higher.

The sell-off followed a torrid rise for stocks since late December. The S&P 500 index is still up 10.7 percent for 2019.

Thursday’s losses were broad, with health care stocks, banks, energy and communications companies accounting for much of the decline. CVS Health dropped 2.9 percent, while SVB Financial Group lost 2.1 percent. CenturyLink fell 4.1 percent. Oil and natural gas explorer Concho Resources slid 7.8 percent.

Stocks headed lower from the get-go Thursday on a mix of new economic data.

The Labor Department said fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected, an positive sign that layoffs are low. A separate report said orders for big-ticket manufactured goods weren’t as strong in December as expected. The National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell 1.2 percent in January to their worst pace in more than three years.

Despite the solid profit growth in the last quarter, investors are cautious about business conditions going forward as signs of weakness in the global economy emerge. The long-running, costly trade dispute between the U.S. and China has also clouded the outlook for company profits this year.

Traders also got a mixed picture in the latest batch of company earnings reports Thursday.

Avis Budget Group jumped 17.1 percent after reporting earnings that were better than analysts were expecting.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings climbed 3.4 percent after the cruise line operator’s revenue surged in the fourth quarter.

Johnson & Johnson lost 0.7 percent after the company disclosed that it had received federal subpoenas related to litigation over its baby powder.

Benchmark U.S. crude slid 0.3 percent to settle at $56.96 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell was little changed at $67.07 a barrel in London.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.69 percent from 2.65 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar fell to 110.68 yen from 110.84 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1336 from $1.1350.

Gold slid 1.5 percent to $1,327.80 an ounce. Silver slumped 2.3 percent to $15.80 an ounce. Copper dropped 0.8 percent to $2.90 a pound.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline rose 1 percent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil added 0.9 percent to $2.04 a gallon. Natural gas gained 2.3 percent to $2.70 per 1,000 cubic feet.