Energy companies lead a decline in US stocks as crude slumps

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are dropping in late afternoon trading Monday as investors dump energy companies. Benchmark U.S. crude is trading at its lowest level in nearly seven years following a decision by OPEC last week not to cut production. Airline stocks rose on the prospect of lower fuel costs.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gave up 174 points, or 1 percent, to 17,673 as of 3:06 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,069. The Nasdaq composite dropped 58 points, or 1.1 percent, to 5,084.

ENERGY DROP: Oil drillers and other energy companies are falling sharply as benchmark U.S. crude continues its 1 ½ year tumble. U.S. crude fell $2.32, or 6 percent, to close at $37.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest price since Feb. 2009. Natural gas prices also fell. Among energy stocks, Consol Energy plunged $1.20, or 15 percent, to $6.52 and Chesapeake Energy lost 35 cents, or 8 percent, to $4.19.

THE QUOTE: “No one in the energy patch is willing to support the price (of oil) and, if they aren’t willing, the price will keep dropping,” said Mizuho Securities Chief Economist Steven Ricchiuto. “The whole world is facing excess supply as the global economy slows.”

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TAKING OFF: Airline stocks rose sharply as investors anticipated that lower fuel costs would help the companies fatten their profit margins. JetBlue Airways jumped $1.03, or 4 percent, to $26.51. Delta Air Lines gained $1.43, or 2.9 percent, to $51.20.

CHIPOTLE TUMBLE: Chipotle Mexican Grill dropped $17.91, or 3 percent, to $543.29. The restaurant chain warned late Friday that an outbreak of E. coli linked to its restaurants sent sales plummeting by as much as 22 percent in recent weeks.

COFFEE JOLT: Keurig Green Mountain soared 74 percent after agreeing to be acquired by a private equity firm. The stock jumped $38.32 to $90.02.

OFFICE TROUBLE: Office Depot plunged 16 percent after regulators said they would try to block a proposed purchase of it by rival Staples for $6.3 billion. Office Depot dropped $1.04 to $5.59. Staples fell $1.58, or nearly 13 percent, to $10.78.

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PLAYING DEFENSE: Stocks of gun makers are soaring on the prospect of big sales amid a push for greater gun control following the San Bernardino shootings. Smith & Wesson Holding added $1.27, or nearly 7 percent, to $20.26.

EUROPE’S DAY: The CAC-40 in France was 0.9 percent higher while Germany’s DAX rose 1.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent.

CHINA DATA: Much focus this week will fall on China, the world’s No. 2 economy, as investor continue to worry about slowing growth in the world’s No. 2 economy. Trade data are due on Tuesday, inflation on Wednesday and retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment on Saturday.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1 percent, China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.3 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.5 percent.

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BONDS, CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices edged up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.23 percent from 2.27 percent late Friday. The euro slipped to $1.0845 from $1.0871 and the dollar edged up to 123.32 yen from 123.22 yen.

METALS: Precious and industrial metals futures ended broadly lower. The price of gold slipped $8.90 to $1,075.20 an ounce, silver lost 20 cents to $14.33 an ounce and copper gave up three cents to $2.05 a pound.