Health care and bank stocks pull US indexes slightly lower
By MARLEY JAY
Dec. 22, 2017
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished slightly lower Friday in subdued trading ahead of a three-day holiday weekend. Health care companies and banks slipped.
President Donald Trump signed the Republican-backed tax bill into law, but for the fourth day in a row, stocks didn't move much. They had made strong gains in recent weeks as investors became more sure the $1.5 trillion package would pass.
High-dividend stocks made small gains even as bond yields remained near their recent highs. The price of bitcoin fell as much as 30 percent after making gigantic gains throughout the year.
The price of bitcoin was down about 8 percent in the late afternoon after trading in a gigantic range between $10,834 and $15,830 during the day, according to the tracking site CoinDesk.
"The bubble is really in the conversation about bitcoin at this point," said Brett Ewing, chief market strategist of First Franklin. "If you were to go out and talk to 100 people you know, all of them know about bitcoin ... but how many of them actually own it?"
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.23 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,683.34. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 28.23 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,754.06. The Nasdaq composite fell 5.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,959.96.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 4.18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,542.93. Those companies, which stand to benefit more than others from lower tax rates, outpaced the market this week.
Stocks are below the record highs they reached Monday but still finished higher for the fifth week in a row.
Markets will be closed Monday in observance of Christmas, and with just four days of trading left in 2017, stocks are on pace to finish every month of the year with gains, when dividends are included.
Nike slumped $1.48, or 2.3 percent, to $63.29. The company had a strong quarter overall, as its profit and sales both beat Wall Street projections. But Nike's North American business continued to struggle.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 2.48 percent.
Banks took modest losses. They've done far better than the rest of the market as the tax bill has been at the forefront of investors' minds and interest rates have moved higher.
The S&P 1500 banking index, which tracks small, medium and large-sized banks, has soared 9 percent over the last month. The S&P 1500 is up about 3 percent over that time.
Papa John's founder John Schnatter will step down as the pizza chain's CEO next month, about two months after he criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by players. The company did not say if the move was related to those comments, for which Schnatter later apologized.
Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie will become CEO on Jan. 1 while Schnatter, who appears in the chain's commercials and on its pizza boxes, remains chairman and the company's biggest shareholder. Papa John's stock shed $2.33, or 3.9 percent, to $56.90.
World Wrestling Entertainment dropped $2.32, or 7.3 percent, to $29.55 after the company disclosed that Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon sold 3.3 million shares to raise money for new investments in sports and entertainment, potentially including football. McMahon helped create the XFL, which lasted a single season in 2001. WWE said he plans to remain its chairman and CEO, and he remains its main shareholder.
Around 4:50 p.m. bitcoin had fallen 8 percent to $14,358, according to CoinDesk. It had soared close to $20,000 as of Sunday. Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which began trading on Monday, lost 7.8 percent to $14,135.
The losses, steep as they are, only bring the price of bitcoin back to where it was two weeks ago. It's still made huge gains this year, and was trading below $1,000 in January. Many economists and market watchers say bitcoin is in a speculative bubble that is ready to burst any time.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 11 cents to $58.47 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 35 cents to $65.25 a barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline picked up 1 cent to $1.76 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.97 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 7 cents to $2.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose $8.20 to $1,278.80 an ounce. Silver climbed 21 cents to $16.44 an ounce. Copper gained 2 cents to $3.24 a pound.
The dollar fell to 113.31 yen from 113.35 yen. The euro fell to $1.1852 from $1.1873.
Spain's IBEX fell 1.2 percent after a group of pro-independence parties won a majority in elections to Parliament. The DAX in Germany fell 0.3 percent and the French CAC 40 lost 0.4 percent. In Britain the FTSE 100 slid 0.1 percent.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 slid 0.7 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.7 percent and the Kospi in South Korea climbed 0.4 percent.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jayt