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Stocks sink further as retailers lead US indexes lower

NEW YORK _ U.S. stocks are slipping further Thursday as retailers slide. Bed Bath & Beyond is down after posting weak sales, while e-commerce company Alibaba is down after regulators again sanctioned the company for sales of counterfeit goods. Without much major news before the holidays, investors are scrutinizing company earnings. Software company Red Hat is falling after reporting weak results.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average shed 27 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 19,914 as of 1:25 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 6 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,259. The Nasdaq composite dipped 26 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 5,444. Basic materials and technology companies also falling more than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks sank 9 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,365.

NAUGHTY LIST: The U.S. government put Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba back on a blacklist of marketplaces that sell pirated goods. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Alibaba’s Taobao sells large amounts of counterfeit products and is slow to respond when companies complain about knockoffs. Chinese regulators have also said Alibaba doesn’t do enough to prevent fake items from being sold on its sites.

Its stock lost $1.89, or 2.1 per cent, to $87.37.

Investors may have also been concerned about trade between the U.S. and China. President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday he will name Peter Navarro, who has accused China of effectively waging economic war against the United States, to head a national trade council in his administration.

TAKING A BATH: Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond slumped after it reported weaker sales than analysts expected. Its stock gave up $3.93, or 8.6 per cent, to $41.63. Big-name retailers including Target, Staples and Dollar Tree also slumped.

HAT IN HAND: Investors were disappointed with Red Hat after the open-source software company reported disappointing revenue in the third quarter and its fourth-quarter sales projections were also lower than analysts expected. The company also said its chief financial officer will leave in January to become CEO of another company. Red Hat sank $10.15, or 12.7 per cent, to $69.64.

PASS THE CHIPS: Chipmaker Micron Technology climbed after its first-quarter profit came out ahead of analyst estimates. The company’s forecast for the current quarter was also far better than expected. Its stock jumped $2.54, or 12.3 per cent, to $23.12.

MEATY PROFITS: ConAgra Brands rose after it reported a larger profit than expected, and analysts said its profit margins are getting stronger. ConAgra is selling and spinning off several businesses so it can focus on consumer brands like Healthy Choice, Banquet and Chef Boyardee. Its stock added $1.24, or 3.3 per cent, to $39.24.

REAR VIEW MIRROR: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world’s largest generic drug maker, rose after it agreed to settle an investigation into possible bribes paid to foreign governments. The Israeli company will pay $519 million and its Russian business will plead guilty to criminal charges. The inquiry also involved Teva’s businesses in Ukraine and Mexico. Teva said it replaced the leadership of its Russian division after the investigation began.

The stock added 82 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $37.19. Teva said in October that it was setting aside $520 million for a possible settlement, and investors are often pleased when companies settle investigations because removes uncertainty and helps the companies put their problems behind them.

SWEET GIG: Chocolate maker Hershey rose after it named Michele Buck its next president and CEO. She is currently Hershey’s chief operating officer and will take the new job on March 1. Current CEO John Bilbrey said in October that he planned to retire as CEO, though he will remain chairman of the board. Hershey stock added 80 cents to $103.97.

THE ITALIAN JOB: Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena slid 7.5 per cent as it struggled to raise enough new capital from private investors to stay afloat. It is trying to raise $5.2 billion, but an offer to swap debt for equity raised only half that amount. That might mean the bank will need a government bailout, which would test Europe’s new rules designed to keep shaky banks from costing taxpayers money.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 46 cents to $52.95 a barrel in New York and Brent crude, the international standard, rose 56 cents, or 1 per cent, to $55.02 a barrel in London. That helped energy companies trade higher. Marathon Petroleum picked up $1.40, or 2.9 per cent, to $50.39 and Chevron gained 98 cents to $118.89.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.55 per cent from 2.54 per cent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 117.58 yen from 117.54 yen. The euro rose to $1.0445 from $1.0427.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe were also quiet. The DAX in Germany lost 0.1 per cent and Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.3 per cent. In France, the CAC-40 was little changed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 per cent lower and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.8 per cent. The South Korean Kospi fell 0.1 per cent.