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Stocks wobble as health care climbs and industrials fall

Major market indexes are mixed Thursday following a three-day losing streak. Industrial companies are down as heavy machinery maker Caterpillar continues to slide. Health care companies are higher and banks are rising along with bond yields. Thursday marks the eighth anniversary of the current bull market.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index remained at 2,363 as of 3:25 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 8 points to 20,847. The Nasdaq composite gave up 1 point to 5,835. Almost three-quarters of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange were trading lower.

The S&P 500 is up about 250 percent since March 9, 2009, when it bottomed out in the depths of the financial crisis. The current bull run is the second-longest since World War II.

THE QUOTE: “Bull markets typically don’t die of old age,” said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas. “They typically die because there’s a downturn in the economy.”

Lefkowitz said there are few signs that will happen any time soon, as wages are growing and hiring appears to be on the rise. The Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates next week, but he said inflation remains low and the Fed’s actions shouldn’t stifle economic growth.

“The key question is how quickly does inflation continue to rise from here and how aggressive does the Fed need to get,” he said.

CAREFUL NOW: Caterpillar fell another $2.03, or 2.2 percent, to $91.20 as the government investigates the company’s taxes and accounting. The stock is down almost 8 percent since March 1 after a jump of 36 percent in 2016. Elsewhere, farm equipment company Deere lost 97 cents to $109.50 and American Airlines led airlines lower after it reported weak February traffic. It lost $1.56, or 3.5 percent, to $43.33.

EXCESS ENERGY: Crude oil prices continued to slip after the U.S. government reported a huge buildup in fuel stockpiles early Wednesday. Oil is now trading at its lowest price since November, before OPEC countries agreed to reduce production in an effort to shore up prices.

Benchmark U.S. oil fell $1, or 2 percent, to $49.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 92 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $52.19 a barrel in London.

BONDS: Bond prices fell further. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.60 percent from 2.56 percent. Banks and other financial firms made small gains. Cincinnati Financial added 66 cents to $73.42 and IntercontinentalExchange picked up 57 cents, or 1 percent, to $59.96.

FEELING BETTER: Health care companies moved higher. The leaders included health care products giant Johnson & Johnson, which rose $1.97, or 1.6 percent, to $126.07 and cancer drug maker Celgene added $2.35, or 1.9 percent, to $125.39. medical device maker Edwards Lifesciences contributed $3.50, or 3.9 percent, to $93.03.

THE BIG STORE: Investors were also focused on retail results. Sears Holdings rose 44 cents, or 5.9 percent, to $7.93 after the company took a smaller adjusted loss than it did a year ago. Investors were also pleased the struggling chain kept its inventory and expenses under control. Signet Jewelers said it will spend more money on technology as it closes mall-based stores, and its stock rose $5.82, or 9 percent, to $70.22.

Office supply company Staples reported fourth-quarter sales that were far weaker than analysts expected and the company said it will close another 70 stores in North America. The stock gave up 43 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $8.53.

Tailored Brands, the parent of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, plunged $7.51, or 32.2 percent, to $15.86. The company disclosed a bigger loss than expected along with disappointing sales. The company also said it wants to rework an agreement with Macy’s, as its tuxedo shops inside Macy’s stores are struggling.

SEEKING GOOD CHEMISTRY: Paint and coatings maker PPG Industries lost $3.75, or 3.5 percent, to $103.08 after PPG said it offered to buy Dutch company Akzo Nobel earlier this month. PPG said Akzo Nobel rejected the offer, but it still thinks a deal makes sense and it will consider its next steps.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 114.74 yen from 114.42 yen. The euro rose to $1.0586 from $1.0548.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil lost 3 cents to $1.53 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $2.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold fell for the eighth day in a row. It lost $6.20 to $1,203.20 an ounce and the price of silver lost another 26 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $17.04 an ounce. Copper declined 2 cents to $2.58 a pound.

OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 index sank 0.3 percent while German DAX added 0.1 percent and the CAC 40 in France gained 0.4 percent. The CAC 40 has jumped 2.5 percent this month, far more than other major European indexes. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.3 percent as a weaker yen lifted shares of exporters. South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.2 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1.2 percent.


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