Energy companies led U.S. stocks slightly lower Wednesday afternoon, after another slide in crude oil prices. Banks and health care companies were also pulling the market lower, while consumer-focused stocks and telecom sector companies moved higher. In the absence of major economic news, investors were monitoring company earnings.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average had lost 37.4 points, about 0.2 percent to 18,495.7. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was off 6.3 points, about 0.3 percent, at 2,175.6. The Nasdaq composite had given up 20.9 points, about 0.4 percent, to 5,204.6.
OIL PRICES: About the same time, the price of U.S. benchmark crude oil was down $1.32 at $41.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, benchmark international oil, Brent crude, was down $1.13 at $43.85 a barrel.
ANALYST’S OPINION: “There are just not a lot of people around, and the moves are pretty small in the scheme of things,” said analyst David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas.
EYE ON CONSUMERS: Corporate earnings, most of which have now been reported, seem to have been relatively good for the second quarter. A strong jobs report last Friday boosted investors’ confidence in the U.S. economy. Investors should get some insight into the health of consumer demand this week as several major retailers report quarterly results and the government delivers its latest monthly retail sales figures on Friday.
ANOTHER ANALYST’S OPINION: “The volumes have been very light and you don’t have much key economic news coming out in the U.S. this week,” said analyst Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “But sometimes that’s when you get some real moves in the market.”