Stocks Muddled in Early Trade

Stocks Muddled in Early Trade

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks moved little in Thursday morning trading. Drug company stocks continued to slump, pulling health care companies lower. Energy and mining company stocks rose as the price of oil, gold and silver climbed.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 27 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,352 as of 10:05 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,025. The Nasdaq composite fell 16 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,747.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS RISE: The Labor Department reported that applications for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but they remain at levels consistent with a healthy job market.

SHINY: Metals prices surged. Gold jumped $36.60, or 3 percent, to $1,266.40 an ounce and silver added 64 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $15.86 an ounce.

BURNED: Williams-Sonoma lost $4.23, or 7.1 percent, to $55.23 after the seller of cookware and home furnishings disclosed disappointing fourth-quarter results and gave a disappointing outlook for 2016.

ON TIME: Package delivery company FedEx rose after it reported strong holiday-season sales, helped by continued growth in online shopping. FedEx also raised its projections for the year. The stock gained $12.52, or 8.7 percent, to $156.79.

BIG PICTURE: Health care stocks continued to slump, as they have done all week. Investors are fearful that it will get harder for drug companies to raise their prices and boost their profits and revenues. Bank stocks are also down, as low interest rates hurt their profits on lending. Material and energy stocks traded higher, as did industrial companies.

NOT SO SWEET: Mondelez International fell $1.05, or 2.5 percent, to $40.67 after Pershing Square, the hedge fund run by investor Bill Ackman, said it sold 20 million shares. Pershing Square remains a major shareholder in Mondelez, which makes products including Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolates and Trident gum.

BROKEN CIRCUIT: Electronics manufacturer Jabil Circuit lost $2.69, or 12.2 percent, to $19.27 after it posted weaker-than-expected results in the fourth quarter and its guidance was also beneath expectations.

SEAWORLD CRUISES: SeaWorld Entertainment said it will immediately stop breeding orcas after years of controversy over keeping the whales in captivity. The move will phase the animals out of its theme parks. Thestock gained 94 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $18.06.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 84 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $39.30 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude is now slightly higher than it was at the start of the year. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, rose 41 cents, or 1 percent, to $30.74 a barrel in London. Brent crude has risen 9 percent this year. Still, oil prices are far lower they have been for most of the last decade.

OVERSEAS: European stocks tumbled. German's DAX gave up 1.7 percent and the CAC-40 in France lost 1.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slid 0.6 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed 0.2 percent lower as the dollar fell. A weaker dollar would be bad news for Japanese exporters. Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 1.2 percent. Shanghai's composite index came back from early losses, gaining 1.2 percent. South Korea's KOSPI added 0.7 percent.

(KA)