U.S. stocks mostly slip as banks fall and retailers plunge

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks slipped Thursday as interest rates dropped and banks took sharp losses. Department stores tumbled as Macy’s and Kohl’s plunged following weak holiday-season reports that led the chains to cut their profit forecasts.

After a solid but uninspiring report on private hiring in December, bond prices jumped and yields fell, which sent banks down. The dollar declined. Other industries that have climbed since the election, including industrial and basic materials companies, also slipped. The Dow Jones industrial average was down as much as 131 points at midday, but the losses later eased as shares of companies that pay big dividends traded higher.

Health care and technology stocks edged higher, and the Nasdaq composite recovered from an early loss to set another all-time high.

Stocks have surged in the last two months because investors expect faster economic growth after President-elect Donald Trump takes office. Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones, said they may be waiting for a while. She thinks Trump’s proposed tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending won’t affect the economy much until late this year or early 2018.

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The payroll report “reinforced investors’ concerns that stocks have risen too quickly without policy changes actually taking place yet,” she said. Warne added that investors are also not sure if Trump’s trade and immigration proposals will slow down economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average sank 42.87 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,899.29. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1.75 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,269. The Nasdaq composite rose 10.93 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,487.94. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks surrendered 16.02 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,371.94.

The day started with a mixed report on hiring. Payroll processing company ADP said private U.S. companies added 153,000 jobs in December. That was fewer than analysts expected and a bit less than they had in the months before. The government will release its own report on the job market on Friday.

Macy’s said it will cut 10,000 jobs, and both it and Kohl’s reported declines in a key sales measure for November and December. The job cuts will be part of a restructuring for Macy’s that will include selling properties and continuing to close stores. Macy’s, which has lost half its value over the last two years, tumbled $4.98, or 13.9 percent, to $30.86 and Kohl’s slumped $9.87, or 19 percent, to $42.01. Nordstrom and J.C. Penney both sank 7 percent.

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Amazon rose $23.27, or 3.1 percent, to $780.45 as investors interpreted the latest trouble for traditional stores as another sign that the online retail giant is continuing to expand at their expense.

Bond prices jumped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.35 percent from 2.44 percent. That sent banks to steep losses, as lower bond yields mean lower interest rates and reduced profits from mortgages and other loans. Citigroup lost $1.07, or 1.7 percent, to $60.34 and Fifth Third Bancorp declined 78 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $26.64.

The dollar continued to slip below its recent 14-year highs. It fell to 115.62 yen from 117.60 yen. The euro rose to $1.0590 from $1.0467.

With the dollar skidding, the price of gold jumped $16, or 1.4 percent, to $1,181.30 an ounce. Silver gained 9 cents to $16.64 an ounce. That sent mining companies higher. Newmont Mining gained $1.61, or 4.6 percent, to $36.57 and Hecla Mining rose 26 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $5.83.

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Copper prices edged down 2 cents to $2.54 a pound.

Drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals jumped after the company said it won’t restate any of its earnings. The company had been examining sales of its drug Soliris, but said it didn’t find improper revenue recognition and that its sales were valid. Alexion did say it found weaknesses in “internal controls.” The company began examining its sales practices in November, and the following month its CEO and chief financial officer left.

The stock rose $12.07, or 9.5 percent, to $139.18 Thursday.

Stanley Black & Decker rose after the company said it will buy Sears’ Craftsman brand for around $900 million. In October the company agreed to buy Newell Brands’ tools business for $1.95 billion. Its stock gained $1.87, or 1.6 percent, to $118.35.

Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 50 cents to $53.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude added 43 cents to $56.89 a barrel in London.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to $1.64 a gallon. Heating oil remained at $1.69 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1 cent to $3.27 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The FTSE 100 index in Britain inched up 0.1 percent to set another all-time high. The German DAX held steady CAC-40 in France rose less than 0.1 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent and the Kospi of South Korea edged 0.2 percent lower. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.5 percent.