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US stocks veer lower in morning trading; oil dips

U.S. stock indexes edged lower in morning trading Wednesday, weighed down by a slide in supermarket operators and other consumer-focused companies. Materials stocks also were among the big decliners. A sharp drop in hiring last month overshadowed a report Wednesday showing a pickup in job openings in July.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 51 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,486 as of 11:24 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,182. The Nasdaq composite index lost 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,272. The tech-heavy index set a record high close on Tuesday.

ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY: A run of weak U.S. data has weighed on market sentiment in recent sessions. The soft data has reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again soon — a potential boon for stocks. However, worries over the U.S. economy have ratcheted up fears about the outlook and the earning power of companies — and that’s bad for stocks. On Wednesday, investors got a dash of encouraging news: The Labor Department said job openings jumped 4 percent in July. Another government report last Friday showed that employers pulled back on hiring in August.

THE QUOTE: While favorable, the latest job openings report isn’t likely to have much of an impact on trading, noted JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“The jobs report from last Friday still kind of overshadowed that,” he said.

SUPERMARKET SLUMP: Shares in some supermarket operators were down sharply. Sprouts Farmers Markets fell $3.07, or 13.5 percent, to $19.74, after the company cut its guidance, citing falling food prices and rising discounts. Whole Foods slid $1.44, or 4.7 percent, to $29.26, while Kroger lost $1.37, or 4.2 percent, at $31.31.

NO FUN: Dave & Buster’s Entertainment fell 3.2 percent after the restaurant and arcade chain reported weaker-than-anticipated sales. The company also lowered its same-store sales growth outlook for the rest of the year. The stock shed $1.47 to $44.80

GUAC-MAN EFFECT: Chipotle Mexican Grill climbed 5.7 percent after Bill Ackman’s investment firm Pershing Square said it has acquired a 9.9 percent stake in the struggling restaurant chain. The stock rose $23.63 to $437.70.

EUREKA: Apache Corp. surged 7.9 percent after the oil and gas company said it will start working this year to extract crude from a newly discovered major oil field in Texas. The stock added $4.07 to $55.76.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY: Shares in digital storage drive manufacturers Western Digital and Seagate Technology were moving higher. Western Digital vaulted $5.66, or 11.9 percent, to $53.21, while Seagate added $1.66, or 4.8 percent, to $36.13.

JET-SETTERS: Several airline stocks were climbing. American Airlines Group rose $2.43, or 6.6 percent, to $39.39, while United Continental Holdings added $3.23, or 6.3 percent, to $54.37. Delta Air Lines rose $2.32, or 6.3 percent, to $39.14. Southwest Airlines climbed $1.69, or 4.6 percent, to $38.64.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 was up 0.6 percent. Germany’s DAX was also up 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.3 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng each dipped 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed less than 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures were up 29 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $45.16 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, was up 54 cents to $47.80 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 1.54 percent. In currency markets, the dollar weakened to 101.72 yen from 102.08 on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1239 from $1.1253.

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