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US stocks take small losses as health care companies fall

U.S. stocks declined Thursday morning, with health care companies taking the biggest losses as drug companies traded lower. Oil prices continued to rise and energy stocks climbed with them. Companies including Kroger and Costco struggled after releasing weak earnings reports.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,881 as of 11:10 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,984. The Nasdaq composite lost nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,694.

CATCHING A COLD: Small losses for big drug companies pulled health care stocks lower. Johnson & Johnson lost $1.28. or 1.2 percent, to $105.76, while Pfizer slipped 31 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $29.70 and Merck fell 74 cents, or 1.4 percent to $51.54.

EARNINGS: Supermarket operator Kroger dropped $3.21, or 7.9 percent, to $37.43 after investors were disappointed with its quarterly sales and its forecasts. Costco Wholesale fell $2.89, or 1.9 percent, to $149.90 after its profit and sales came up short of Wall Street’s forecasts.

Mining equipment maker Joy Global climbed $2.37, or 17.8 percent, to $15.69 after its first-quarter sales were stronger than expected. 3D printer maker Stratasys rose $2.77, or 13.3 percent, to $23.66. The company’s fourth-quarter results were better than expected and it gave a strong forecast for 2016.

OIL: The price of U.S. crude rose 50 cents to $35.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, added 31 cents to $37.24 a barrel in London. Energy stocks continued to rise after making big gains a day earlier.

ConocoPhillips rose $1.33, or 3.1 percent, to $37.62 and Marathon Petroleum added $1.79, or 5.2 percent, to $36.50.

OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.4 percent and Germany’s DAX fell 0.4 percent. France’s CAC 40 declined 0.5 percent. Asian markets closed mostly higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.3 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.3 percent to 19,941.76.

CHINA OUTLOOK: Chinese leaders were expected to lower their growth target during the upcoming gathering of the National People’s Congress this week as China seeks more flexibility for structural reforms for the slowing, state-dominated economy. The growth target due to be announced on Saturday is expected to be a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, down from 2015’s goal of about 7 percent.

CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.85 percent from 1.84 percent late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.0933 from $1.0868 and the dollar edged up to 113.58 yen from 113.45 yen.

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