Insurers Lead Stocks Lower

(AP) -- U.S. stocks edged lower in early trading Thursday, pulled down by insurers and other financial companies as investors weighed the prospects of big losses for the sector from Hurricane Irma. The storm, which hammered the Northern Caribbean, was projected to hit Florida this weekend. Health care and technology companies were among the biggest gainers.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,463 as of 10:21 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,785. The Nasdaq composite lost 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,389. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 6 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,395.

HURRICANE WATCH: Insurance and reinsurance companies slumped as investors eyed Hurricane Irma, which cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving at least 10 dead and thousands homeless. The powerful storm was on a track Thursday that could lead to a strike on Florida early Sunday. XL Group fell $1.65, or 4.3 percent, to $36.80, while Federated National Holding Co. slid 73 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $11.79. Universal Insurance Holdings gave up $1.62, or 8.7 percent, to $17.02.

BAD READ: Barnes & Noble sank 13.7 percent after reporting results that missed estimates as online and Nook revenue fell. The stock shed $1.07 to $6.78.

LACKLUSTER OUTLOOK: Leggett & Platt slid 5.8 percent after the engineered component manufacturer cut its profit forecast, citing higher steel costs and weak demand for from the furniture and bedding markets. The stock lost $2.69 to $43.85.

BIG JUMP: RH vaulted 43.5 percent after the furniture and housewares retailer raised its annual forecasts after a strong second-quarter report. The stock was up $21.52 to $70.94.

CHARGE IT: MasterCard rose 3.3 percent after the debit and credit card payment processor raised its 2017 revenue forecast and its growth forecast for next year. The stock gained $4.44 to $137.33. Rival Visa also headed higher, adding $1.66, or 1.6 percent, to $104.84.

DOLLAR DIVES: The dollar weakened after the European Central Bank raised its economic growth forecast for the region this year. The central bank also left its key interest rates and bond-purchase stimulus program unchanged. The euro strengthened to $1.1986 from $1.1913 on Wednesday. The U.S. currency also rose to 108.89 yen from 109.37 yen. The ICE US dollar index, which compares the value of the dollar to a basket of major currencies, is down more than 10 percent this year.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.08 percent from 2.11 percent late Wednesday.

ENERGY: Oil futures were mixed. Benchmark U.S. crude was down 19 cents at $48.97 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 15 cents to $54.35 a barrel in London.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe were higher following the European Central Bank's latest forecast and interest rate policy announcements. Germany's was up 0.8 percent, while the CAC 40 in France was 0.4 percent higher. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.6 percent. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 percent, while South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gave up early gains to fall 0.3 percent.