Health care stocks skid, keeping Dow short of 20,000 mark

NEW YORK _ U.S. stock indexes are slightly lower Wednesday as health care companies continue to struggle. The price of natural gas is surging as winter begins, and that’s giving energy companies a lift. The Dow Jones industrial average remains near record highs, but short of the 20,000-point milestone.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow dipped 21 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 19,953 as of 2 p.m. Eastern time. Goldman Sachs was responsible for almost all of that loss. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,267. The Nasdaq composite fell 6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,477. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading remains light.

HEALTH WOES: Cancer drug maker Celgene dipped $2.08, or 1.8 per cent, to $116.44 and health insurance company Anthem lost $2.68, or 1.8 per cent, to $144.98 as health care stocks fell. The S&P 500 health care index is down about 4.5 per cent this year. It’s the only sector that is currently lower than it was at the end of 2015.

MONSTER GAINS: Companies that make drinks, snacks, and other everyday household items traded higher. Monster Beverage rose $2.10, or 4.8 per cent, to $45.64 and Oreo maker Mondelez added 50 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $44.82. The stocks dipped Tuesday, partly because of weak earnings for General Mills. On Wednesday that stock recovered most of its losses and rose $1.20, or 2 per cent, to $62.65.

LOST IN THE MAIL: Shipping company FedEx said its quarterly expenses climbed and its earnings fell short of Wall Street estimates. The company’s stock lost $5.61, or 2.8 per cent, to $193.13.

LOGGING OFF: Social networking site Twitter slumped after Chief Technology Officer Adam Messinger said he’s leaving the company. The struggling company has seen a number of executives leave recently. Former Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain left in November. In October Twitter said it would eliminate 9 per cent of its workforce. Twitter fell 80 cents, or 4.4 per cent, to $17.13.

FINANCIALS FALLING: Banks also slipped. Goldman Sachs fell $2.20, or just under 1 per cent, to $240.89, the biggest loss among the 30 stocks in the Dow average. Goldman is trading near an all-time high, and its 32 per cent gain since the presidential election is far better than any other Dow stock.

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 rose 26 cents, or 8 per cent, to $3.53 per 1,000 cubic feet on the first official day of winter. Southwestern Energy jumped 64 cents, or 6.2 per cent, to $11.02 and Chesapeake Energy gained 21 cents, or 2.9 per cent, to $7.51.

Drilling service and pipeline companies also rose. Halliburton added $1.52, or 2.9 per cent, to $54.86 and Kinder Morgan picked up 32 cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $21.09.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude sank 87 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to $52.43 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international benchmark, lost 95 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to $54.40 a barrel in London.

LET’S GO OUT TO THE MOVIES: AMC Entertainment took a step toward completing its purchase of competitor Carmike Cinemas. The Department of Justice said it will sign off on the sale if AMC sells 15 movie theatres in areas where it competes with Carmike. It will also sell most of its holdings in cinema advertising company National CineMedia and transfer 24 theatres to a rival theatre ad company.

AMC agreed to buy Carmike in July for about $825 million in cash and stock in a deal that would make AMC the biggest movie theatre chain in the U.S. Its stock rose 95 cents, or 2.8 per cent, to $34.40.

SCOPING OUT A DEAL: Mobile gyroscope maker InvenSense said it will be acquired by Japan’s TDK Corp. for $13 a share, or $1.22 billion. That sent the stock to its highest price in almost a year and a half. InvenSense gained $1.91, or 17.6 per cent, to $12.75.

THE SHOE FITS: Athletic apparel maker Nike gained 45 cents to $52.24 after its second-quarter profit and sales came in stronger than analysts expected. Nike is by far the worst performer on the Dow this year, as its stock has tumbled 17 per cent in part thanks to competition with Under Armour. Investors fear the rivalry is affecting both companies.

CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 117.69 yen from 118.04 yen. The euro rose to $1.0426 from $1.0377.

BONDS: Bond prices inched higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slid to 2.54 per cent from 2.56 per cent.

METALS: Gold fell 40 cents to $1,133.20 an ounce. Silver sank 14 cents to $15.98 an ounce. Copper remained at $2.50 a pound.

OVERSEAS: The CAC-40 in France gave up 0.3 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX finished little changed. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng rose 0.4 per cent and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.3 per cent. The South Korean Kospi retreated 0.2 per cent.