Energy Leads U.S. Stocks Lower as Oil Falls 2.7%

Trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Energy companies led U.S. stocks lower in afternoon trading Wednesday as the market gave back some of its gains from a day earlier.

The energy sector’s slide followed a slump in oil prices after the U.S. Energy Department reported a large increase in crude supplies for last week. Oil services companies Halliburton and Schlumberger each dropped more than 3%. The price of oil fell 3.1% to $61.18 per barrel.

Technology stocks also took heavy losses. The sector has been particularly volatile as the U.S. and China jostle over trade. Tech stocks have swung between gains and losses this week after the U.S. proposed restrictions on technology sales to Chinese companies and then granted a 90-day grace period.

Qualcomm and Apple powered the declines in technology stocks Wednesday. Qualcomm plunged following a federal judge’s ruling against the chipmaker in an antitrust case. Several other chipmakers, including Intel, Broadcom and Micron also fell. An S&P index that track chip stocks was down 2.1%. Apple slid 2.1%.

Disappointing quarterly results from some big retailers drove a sell-off in consumer-oriented stocks. Lowe’s tumbled after the home improvement retailer slashed its forecast for the year following weak financial results. Nordstrom also slumped a day after the department store operator released disappointing quarterly results. Target was the bright spot in the sector, climbing sharply after topping Wall Street’s profit forecasts.

Health care, communications and utilities companies were among the gainers. Vertex Pharmaceuticals rose 1.9%, Twitter climbed 3.5% and Sempra Energy picked up 2%.

ANALYST’S TAKE: The trade war continues to be the wild card hanging over the market, said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth for Glenmede. The economy is in the late stages of a now decade-long expansion, and investors are questioning how much longer it can continue.

“Everybody is looking over their shoulders trying to figure out when this cycle will end,” he said.

Corporate earnings and federal monetary policy have ceased to be major concerns, Pride said. That leaves trade as the most closely watched and currently volatile issue.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was down 0.3% as of 2:06 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79 points, or 0.3%, to 25,797. The Nasdaq composite slid 0.3%.

Major stock indexes in Europe edged mostly higher.

BULLSEYE: Target jumped 9.3% after a surge in online sales pushed first quarter profit well beyond Wall Street forecasts.

The retailer has been aggressively expanding its online shopping options, including same-day services and in-store pickups. A key sales measure jumped 4.8%, also beating analysts’ forecasts.

The company has also been expanding its physical footprint with smaller stores in urban areas, along with launching its own exclusive clothing brands.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Nordstrom skidded 9.7% a day after the department store chain reported disappointing financial results. The company also cut its annual sales forecast.

LAID LOW: Lowe’s sank 11.7% after the home improvement retailer slashed its outlook for the year following a weak first quarter.

The company said it is dealing with rising costs and outdated pricing. The company said it will modernize its pricing process in an effort to improve margins. The latest results come a day after key rival Home Depot reported solid first quarter financial results.

CHIPPED STOCK: Qualcomm tumbled 11.7% after a federal judge ruled that the company unlawfully stifled cellphone chip market competition and charged excessive licensing fees.

The chipmaker was ordered to negotiate or renegotiate licensing deals with customers. It must also license its patents to rival chip makers at fair prices and can’t sign exclusive supply agreements with smartphone makers like Apple that block competitors from access to that market.

Other chipmakers dropped. Micron Technology fell 2.6%, Intel dropped 1.1% and Broadcom slid 1.8%.

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