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U.S. stocks mostly lower as drugmakers struggle

🕐 3 min read

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are barely budging Tuesday afternoon. Energy companies are climbing in tandem with the price of crude oil. Earnings reports are driving much of the action and sending chemicals companies higher. Health care stocks are falling on continued scrutiny of drug companies.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 6 points to 17,971 as of 2:47 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,089. The Nasdaq composite index fell 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,886. The Nasdaq has fallen for three days in a row.

THE QUOTE: Trading has been light this week. Julian Emanuel, U.S. equities and derivatives strategist for UBS, said investors are waiting to see the results of Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan policy meetings in the next few days.

“People are very, very wary of taking big positions,” he said. “The commentary is going to be very closely parsed.”

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.40, or 3.3 percent, to $44.04 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.26, or 2.8 percent, to $45.74 a barrel in London.

Murphy Oil rose $1.10, or 3.3 percent, to $34.61 and Devon Energy gained 67 cents, or 2 percent, to $34.62.

HEALTH CARE SLIPS: Drug companies fell as investors looked ahead to the latest Congressional panel on drug prices. The Senate Aging Committee will hold its third meeting on drug prices Wednesday, and on Tuesday the committee said former Valeant Pharmaceuticals executive Robert Schiller and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, an investor in Valeant, will both be questioned.

Investors in drug companies fear that Congressional scrutiny will make it harder for the companies to keep raising drug prices and keep their profits growing. Alexion Pharmaceuticals lost $4.06, or 2.6 percent, to $153.96. Vertex Pharmaceuticals fell $1.84, or 2.1 percent, to $83.82.

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH: Chemicals companies and makers of mining and construction equipment also jumped. DuPont picked up $1.63, or 2.5 percent, to $67.60. The chemicals giant expects a larger profit for the year, saying the strong dollar won’t hurt its results as much as it predicted. Dow Chemical, which is preparing to combine with DuPont, added $1.23, or 2.3 percent, to $53.77.

Strong earnings helped industrial companies. Truck leasing company Ryder System added $4.34, or 6.7 percent, to $69.59. Manufacturing company Ingersoll-Rand rose $1.34, or 2.1 percent, to $65.37. Truck maker Paccar gained $2.68, or 4.8 percent, to $58.73.

CHINA: Emanuel of UBS said that energy, chemical and mining companies and heavy machinery makers are getting a hand from China’s economy, which is doing better than investors expected a few months ago. “It is definitely doing better than global investors would have thought,” he said.

BP BEATS: Oil company BP’s profit was larger than expected and it left its dividend unchanged despite falling earnings and oil prices. Its U.S.-traded stock rose $1.62, or 5.1 percent, to $33.41.

BROKEN GLASS: Specialty glass maker Corning lost $1.60, or 7.6 percent, to $19.37 after its sales were weaker than expected.

WHIRLPOOL SOAKED: Whirlpool, the appliance maker behind Maytag, KitchenAid and other brands, reported disappointing profit and sales. The company said its business was hurt by the strong dollar. The stock lost $7.79, or 4.2 percent, to $178.25.

NOT SO SWEET: Chocolate maker Hershey cut its profit forecasts after first-quarter its sales were weaker than expected. The stock gave up $1.80, or 2 percent, to $80.57.

FRESH: Grocery store chain SuperValu jumped 22 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $5.37 after its profit surpassed estimates.

SAREPTA SKIDS: Drug developer Sarepta Therapeutics plunged after a Food and Drug Administration panel said its muscular dystrophy drug eteplirsen shouldn’t be approved. The panelists said evidence didn’t show the drug is effective. The stock fell $3.74, or 25 percent, to $11.22.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $1.57 a gallon. Heating oil added 4 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $1.33 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $2.03 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold rose $3.20 to $1,243.40 an ounce and silver edged up 10 cents to $17.11 an ounce. Copper lost 1 cent to $2.24 a pound.

OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent, while Germany’s DAX and the CAC 40 in France each lost 0.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent and South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.5 percent.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.93 percent from 1.92 percent a day earlier. The dollar rose to 111.37 yen from 111.28 yen. The euro rose to $1.1288 from $1.1261.

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