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Stocks indexes settle down, but small companies drop again

Stock traders James Denaro, left, and Vera Liu

Stock traders James Denaro, left, and Vera Liu follow stock prices at the NYSE on Monday.  Photo Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

Stocks wobbled Thursday as the markets turned fairly quiet after a very turbulent start to the week. Small companies dropped and high-dividend stocks, which investors favor when they want to reduce risk, rose.

Major stock indexes spent the day switching between small gains and losses after several days of much bigger moves. Clothing companies and other retailers fell, weighed down by weak earnings reports, and a disappointing forecast from Delta hurt airlines.

Chemical and basic materials makers also sank.

Trading has been jagged over the last few months as investors worried about growing trade tensions and rising interest rates. Mona Mahajan, U.S. investment strategist for Allianz Global Investors, said traders aren't sure what strategy to use right now: many recent market favorites, including Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, have taken a beating. Yet the global economy is still growing, making high-dividend, low-growth stocks like utilities feel like a strange choice, she said.

"Over the last few weeks the mentality of 'buy the dip' has been replaced by something more like 'sell the rally,'" she said.

The S&P 500 index lost 0.53 points to 2,650.54. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70.11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 24,597.38 as McDonald's and Procter & Gamble rose. The Nasdaq composite fell 27.98 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,070.33.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 22.62 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,432.70. The Russell has fallen 17.7 percent since setting a record high in late August and is trading at its lowest level since September 2017.

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