Stocks give up an early gain, veer lower in afternoon trade

Stocks give up an early gain, veer lower in afternoon trade
Trader Michael Milano works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Stocks are opening solidly higher on Wall Street after a number of big U.S. companies reported strong quarterly earnings. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stocks veered mostly lower in afternoon trading Wednesday, giving back gains from earlier in the day. The pullback came after the Federal Reserve announced that it is leaving its key interest rate unchanged. Losses in health care stocks outweighed gains in technology companies and other sectors. Bond prices fell, sending yields higher. Oil prices reversed an early slide.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,818 as of 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average was little changed at 26,073. The Nasdaq slid 5 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,397. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,575.

THE FED SPEAKS: The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged Wednesday in a still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. But the central bank signaled that it expects to resume raising rates gradually to reflect an improving, healthy job market and economy. In a statement, the Fed also said that it expects inflation to finally pick up this year and to stabilize around the Fed’s target level of 2 percent. The central bank has previously signaled that it could raise interest rates three times this year.

UNDER THE WEATHER: Health care stocks, including several drugmakers, were among the biggest decliners for the second day in a row. Eli Lilly lost .45, or 5.2 percent, to .64, while Gilead Sciences gave up .72, or 4.3 percent, to .57.

BIG DECLINER: Juniper Networks slumped 8.6 percent after the provider of network equipment forecast quarterly results that were well below what Wall Street analysts expected. The stock was down more than any other company in the S&P 500, shedding .44 to .88.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Textron shares fell 3 percent after the industrial conglomerate’s earnings and revenue fell short of forecasts. The stock slid .80 to .38.

TECH SURGE: Technology companies posted solid gains, recouping some of their losses from a day earlier. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices added 83 cents, or 6.4 percent, to .70. Electronic Arts jumped 7.2 percent after the video game maker forecast quarterly earnings and sales that were well ahead of what Wall Street analysts expected. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, rising .59 to .29.

HIGH FLYER: Boeing climbed 4.5 percent after the aerospace giant’s latest quarterly earnings topped Wall Street’s expectations. The stock, which has been the biggest gainer in the Dow over the past year, added .20 to .91.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices didn’t move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at 2.72 percent. The prospect for stronger economic growth, both in the U.S. and abroad, has helped drive bond yields higher in recent months. This week yields have hovered at the highest level since April 2014. Rising yields make bonds more appealing to investors seeking income, but they can also lead to higher financing costs for companies, homebuyers and other borrowers.

ENERGY: Oil prices reversed an early slide. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 23 cents to settle at .73 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 3 cents to .05 a barrel in London.

METALS: Gold rose .60 to ,339 an ounce. Silver added 18 cents to .24 an ounce. Copper gained 1 cent to .20 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.35 yen from 108.78 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to .2389 from .2404.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 gained 0.1 percent. London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.9 percent. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.3 percent.