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Sinking energy stocks pull S&P 500 to fourth straight loss

The New York Stock Exchange on Dec. 21,

The New York Stock Exchange on Dec. 21, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

Stocks took another small step backward on Wednesday after a plunge in the price of oil dragged down shares of energy producers. The losses overshadowed gains for technology companies and other areas of the market.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped by a fraction of a point, down 0.30 to 2,629.27, and it’s down just 0.5 percent so far this week. But even those modest movements could count as notable in a year that’s been unusually calm and easy for investors. It was the fourth straight loss for the index, the first time that has happened since March.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.73 points, or 0.2 percent, to 24,140.91, the Nasdaq composite rose 14.16, or 0.2 percent, to 6,776.38.

Stocks have been mostly drifting lower this week following a strong run for markets this year. The ups and downs have come as the Senate and House of Representatives try to iron out differences in their proposals to overhaul the tax system, and investors shift their portfolios toward companies that stand to benefit most from lower rates.

“It looks like we topped out last week and we’ve been rolling a bit,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors. “The reality is we had a phenomenal run here, and we looked a little overbought in my mind. So I wouldn’t at all discount a little bit of a correction here of 2 or 3 percent.”

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