Technology and consumer-focused companies led a modest slide in U.S. stocks Thursday afternoon. Oil production and drilling companies bucked the trend, getting a lift from a sharp increase in crude oil prices. Trading got off to a downbeat start as investors reacted to a decision by the European Central Bank to leave its key interest rates unchanged and hold off on extending a stimulus program.
ON WALL STREET: In late afternoon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 46.2 points, about 0.3 percent, at nearly 18,480. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 4.9 points, about 0.2 percent, to 2,181.3. The Nasdaq composite index lost 24.4 points, about 0.5 percent, to 5,259.5. The tech-heavy index set record highs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
OIL PRICES: Crude oil prices moved higher after a report indicating a big drop in fuel stockpiles. As markets closed, the price of benchmark U.S. crude was up $2.08 cents at $48.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, the price of Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up $1.75 at $49.73 a barrel.
RIDING OIL: Several oil drilling and production companies were up on the latest oil stockpiles figures, pushing the S&P 500’s energy sector 1.6 percent higher. The sector is up 17.3 percent this year.
NO ACTION: The European Central Bank decided to leave its key interest rates unchanged. It also said it would not extend the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program. At a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi seemed relatively confident about the economy and less inclined to hint at more stimulus than some analysts had expected.
ANALYST’S OPINION: “If the ECB saw the world going to hell in a hand basket, they would have made a move [for additional stimulus],” said analyst Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. “But they don’t.”