Investors locked in profits after a week of gains yesterday, sending stocks lower even as oil prices fell for a fifth straight day and two...
NEW YORK — Investors locked in profits after a week of gains yesterday, sending stocks lower even as oil prices fell for a fifth straight day and two big cable operators reportedly agreed to bid for bankrupt Adelphia Communications.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 84.98 to 10,461.34.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, retreated 16 cents yesterday to close at $24.94 a share, but gained 3.4 percent over the week. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 41 cents to $58.60, ending the past week off 0.3 percent.
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Broader stock indicators also lost ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 9.94 at 1,181.20, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 19.44 to 1,999.35.
Despite yesterday’s losses, all three indexes finished the week higher for the first time since March 4, buoyed by the largest weekly decline in oil prices since December. For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 climbed 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq gained 0.7 percent.
Wall Street welcomed news that Time Warner and Comcast teamed up in an $18 billion bid for Adelphia, in which a combined Time Warner/Adelphia cable company would be spun off into a public company. A private equity firm also announced a $1 billion offer for retailer ShopKo Stores, further bolstering enthusiasm over the year’s healthy merger activity.
But even as crude prices continued their decline, investors shifted their holdings and took profits ahead of first-quarter earnings announcements, which begin in earnest next week, and economic reports that could shed light on inflation.
“Why wouldn’t you take the money off the table, especially after seeing the market go down as low as it did last month?” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management. “I think some people are taking some profits, but volume is very low, and it’s very quiet, so any move we have here today you have to take with a grain of salt.”
Crude-oil futures dropped for a fifth straight day yesterday, though investors seemed skeptical that oil futures may, at least in the short term, have hit a ceiling. A barrel of light crude settled at $53.32, down 79 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“Oil prices and interest rates continue to dominate,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke. “We may need to see oil fall further before the markets get comfortable. And inflation is still an issue.”
Despite soaring energy prices and the stock market’s downturn in March, consumer confidence remained steady for the past month, according to the latest AP-Ipsos consumer confidence index. The index rose narrowly to 84.5 in April, compared to March’s reading of 84.2.