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U.S. stocks close mixed as investors seek safe havens

Specialists Dilip Patel, left, and Patrick Murphy work

Specialists Dilip Patel, left, and Patrick Murphy work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.  Credit: AP / Richard Drew

U.S. stocks slid into the finish Tuesday with the Nasdaq composite turning in a small gain just before the closing bell. For the most part, stocks foundered on weak fourth-quarter results. In general investors looked for less risky investments, moving money into bonds and stocks that pay large dividends, like utilities.

ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 2 points, about 0.09 percent, at 2,278.9. The Dow Jones industrial average had lost 107 points, about 0.5 percent, to 19,864.1. The Nasdaq gained 1.1 points, about 0.02 percent, to 5,614.8.

BOND PRICES: Bond prices rose as investors snapped up bonds. As markets closed, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.451 percent from 2.49 percent. That hurt financial stocks, as lower bond yields reduce interest rates and the profits those companies make from lending.

Investors who want income also bought stocks that pay outsize dividends, including real estate investment trusts and utility companies. Gains for those stocks limited the market’s losses overall.

Shopping mall operators Simon Property Group and GGP both traded higher after their quarterly reports. Simon gained $5.48, or 3.1 percent, to $183.22 and GGP rose 95 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $24.91.

OIL PRICES: As markets closed, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 19 cents to $52.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, was up 45 cents at $55.68 a barrel.

GOLD PRICES: The price of gold and silver made their biggest jumps in two weeks. At the close, gold was up $17.40, about 1.5 percent, to $1,213.40 an ounce. Silver gained 43 cents, about 2.5 percent, to $17.58 an ounce.

TRUMP NERVES: Another day of protests against parts of Trump’s agenda and challenges for some of his cabinet nominees who haven’t been confirmed by Congress made investors a bit more nervous. The VIX, an index known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” rose again after jumping Monday. It climbed 6 percent Tuesday to 12.58, which is up from 10 late last week but about the same as it was two weeks ago. At the close it was 11.97.

ANALYST’S OPINION: Analyst Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, said investors are looking for safer investments because the change from Barack Obama’s administration to Donald Trump’s has created so many changes in government. “More than anything right now it’s just the pace of news. It is so dramatic,” he said.

The stock market made huge gains after Trump was elected last fall, and Paulsen said it’s not a surprise that investors would pull back, take some profits and move to safer investments at some point.

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