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Stocks slip into losses in the afternoon after Yellen speech

Stocks were mostly lower on Wall Street in early afternoon trading on Friday, giving up modest gains following a generally upbeat assessment of the economy from Fed Chair Janet Yellen. Phone companies and utilities, widely considered safe-play stocks, led the list of declining stocks, while the health care and technology sectors rose. AT&T and Verizon each fell 1 percent.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 67 points, or 0.4 percent, to 18,382 as of 12:19 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,167. The Nasdaq composite dipped 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,203.

YELLEN UPBEAT: Federal Reserve Chair Yellen said in a speech that the Fed is moving toward raising interest rates in light of a solid job market and an improved outlook for the U.S. economy and inflation. But she stopped short of signaling any timetable for the next rate hike.

BOND REACTION: After initially rising after Yellen’s speech, U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year note, which moves in the opposite direction of the price, rose to 1.59 percent from 1.54 earlier Friday. The yield was 1.58 percent late Thursday.

THE QUOTE: “Who would think the Fed would raise interest rates two months before a very important election and with economic growth that has been back and forth and back and forth for years?” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at R.W. Baird. “She suggests the economy is improving, but the GDP numbers for the past three quarters are closer to 1 percent than three percent. That is very anemic.”

SOFTWARE SURGE: Design software company Autodesk rose $4.08, or 6 percent, to $67.78 after reporting a small profit, beating expectations of a loss.

HERBALIFE FALLS: Herbalife fell $3.39, or 5.6 percent, to $58.54 after the Wall Street Journal reported that Carl Icahn, the company’s biggest shareholder and defender, has been trying to unload his stake. Federal regulators recently ordered the company to change its sales practices, but did not agree with Wall Street critics that it was a pyramid scheme.

OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent, Germany’s DAX gained 0.6 percent, and France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.8 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.2 percent after consumer prices fell the most in three years in July. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.4 percent.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil slipped 9 cents to $47.24 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price oil internationally, fell 25 cents to $49.42 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 101.46 yen from 100.57 yen the previous day. The euro fell to $1.1220 from $1.1281.

 

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