Stocks Waver in Early Trade

Stocks Waver in Early Trade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Railroad stocks chugged higher in early trading Thursday, but drops for utilities and other companies that pay big dividends meant U.S. stock indexes were treading water once again. Treasury yields continued their march higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,268 as of 10:12 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 24 points, or 0.1 percent, at 19,781. The Nasdaq composite index rose 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,562.

RAIL RALLY: Railroad operators posted some of the biggest gains. CSX led the way with a jump of $6.20, or 16.8 percent, to $43.08. An activist investor is reportedly teaming up with the executive who turned around Canadian Pacific Railway to target CSX.

Union Pacific rose $3.04, or 2.9 percent, to $106.81 after reporting stronger fourth-quarter earnings than expected. Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern were also all strong.

BINGE BUYING: Netflix jumped $7.68, or 5.8 percent, to $140.98 after the video-streaming service reported stronger fourth-quarter earnings than analysts expected and said that it added more customers during the quarter than ever before.

BANK BLUES: Bank of New York Mellon, BB&T and KeyCorp had some of the biggest drops in the S&P 500 after reporting their fourth-quarter earnings before the market opened.

TREASURY YIELDS: Bond yields continued their march higher, and the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.47 percent from 2.43 percent late Wednesday. Yields have generally been climbing since Election Day on expectations that President-elect Donald Trump's policies will spur more inflation and economic growth. The 10-year yield is still below its perch above 2.60 percent that it reached in mid-December, but it's still well above the 2.09 percent yield it was at a year ago.

DIVIDEND DROPS: Higher yields may lure income investors back to bonds and away from high-dividend stocks. That hurts utility stocks and real-estate investment trusts, which carry some of the biggest dividend yields. The two sectors were among the worst performers of the 11 that make up the S&P 500 index. Real-estate investment trusts lost 0.9 percent.

ECONOMIC REPORTS: The U.S. economy continues to hum along. Reports released Thursday indicated strength in the labor and housing markets. The fewest number of workers sought unemployment claims last week in 43 years, a sign that corporate layoffs are subsiding.

A separate report showed that homebuilders broke ground on more new homes in December, capping a solid 2016 for the industry. Developers began work on the most new homes and apartments since 2007.

A stronger economy could sway the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly. It has raised rates twice since 2015 after keeping them at record lows near zero since 2008.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was mixed against its major rivals. It rose to 115.139 Japanese yen from 113.74 late Wednesday, and the euro dipped to $1.0661. But the British pound rose to $1.2308 from $1.2284.

MARKETS ABROAD: In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent, South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent.

In Europe, the German DAX rose 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 rose 0.1 percent and the FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent in London.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 54 cents, or 1 percent, to $52.43 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, rose 59 cents to $54.51. Natural gas fell 3 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.26 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold dropped $14.90 to $1,197.20 per ounce, silver fell 48 cents to $16.79 per ounce and copper lost a penny to $2.61 per pound.

(KA)