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U.S. stocks take modest loss as health sector struggles

A miniature reproduction of Arturo Di Modica's

A miniature reproduction of Arturo Di Modica's "Charging Bull" sculpture, a Financial District icon, sits on display at a street vendor's table outside the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 25, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

U.S. stock indexes closed with modest losses Wednesday as health care companies continue to struggle. The price of natural gas is surging as winter begins, and that’s sent energy companies higher. The Dow Jones industrial average remains near record highs, but short of its 20,000-point milestone.

ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow was down 32.7 points, about 0.2 percent, at nearly 19,942. It closed at a record high 19,974 on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 5.6 points, about 0.3 percent, at 2,265.2. the Nasdaq composite was off nearly 12.5 points, about 0.2 percent, at 5,471.4.

OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude was down 79 cents at $52.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, used to price international oils, was off 87 cents at $54.48 per barrel.

BOND PRICES: Bond prices inched higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slid to 2.54 percent from 2.56 percent.

HEALTH WOES: Cancer drugmaker Celgene dipped $2.67 to close at $115.85, and health insurance company Anthem lost $2.67 to close at $144.99 as health care stocks fell. The S&P 500 health care index is down about 4 percent this year. It’s the only sector that is currently lower than it was at the end of 2015.

THE HEAT IS ON: Natural gas companies made big gains thanks to a surge in the price of natural gas. The price of that fuel climbed 28 cents, or 8.6 percent, to $3.54 per 1,000 cubic feet on the first official day of winter. Energy companies and drilling service and pipeline companies also rose.

GOLDMAN SACKED: Goldman Sachs took the biggest loss of any of the 30 Dow components as it fell $1.68, or almost 1 percent, to $241.41. Goldman is trading near an all-time high, and its 32 percent gain since the presidential election is far better than any other Dow stock.

ANALYST’S OPINION: “It looks like we’re going to see another cold blast,” said Jim Ritterbusch, an analyst who advises oil traders. He said weather forecasts suggest temperatures will drop later next week, which means people will use more natural gas to heat their homes. The price of natural gas has fluctuated sharply in the last few months. “Whenever you get extreme volatility in the weather patterns, that translates to price volatility in futures,” Ritterbusch said.


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