Stocks Wobble as Energies Fall

NEW YORK (AP) -- Technology and energy companies are skidding Friday while banks and insurance companies recover some of their recent losses, which leaves U.S. stocks indexes little changed overall. Credit monitoring company Equifax is plunging after it disclosed a data breach that affects 143 million Americans. Grocery stores and household goods companies fell as Kroger said stiff competition forced it to cut prices.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 1 point to 2,463 as of 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,818. The Nasdaq composite lost 26 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,371. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,399. Stocks are on track to finish the week with a loss.

EYE ON THE STORM: Hurricane Irma left at least 16 people dead and thousands homeless on a devastated string of Caribbean islands and was spinning toward Florida for what could be a catastrophic blow this weekend.

While insurance companies made a small recovery Friday, investors expect steep losses from Irma as well as Hurricane Harvey. Reinsurance companies, which sell policies that cover catastrophic losses like those caused by storms and floods, are down about 10 percent since early August.

On Friday Chubb rose $5.50, or 4.1 percent, to $140.38 and XL Group regained $1.60, or 4.4 percent, to $38.08.

THE QUOTE: Experts think the storms will slow down U.S. economic growth in the third quarter. While that's likely to be temporary, David Chalupnik, head of equities at Nuveen Asset Management, said the storms could affect stocks for a while because it will be hard for investors to tell how much of any company's problems are caused by the weather.

"The next couple of months are going to be pretty cloudy," he said. He said insurance companies, cruise lines, and oil refiners based in the Gulf Coast or Southeast could take losses and bad debt at credit card companies will increase, and since the storm will push the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower for a bit longer, that will hurt banks by keeping interest rates low on loans.

DATA DISASTER: Equifax slumped in heavy trading after the credit monitoring company said a data breach exposed Social Security numbers and other information from 143 million Americans. It said the breach occurred between mid-May and July. Equifax shares tumbled $19.23, or 13.5 percent, to $123.49 Competitor TransUnion fell $2.13, or 4.3 percent, to $47.6 and Experian fell 0.7 percent in London.

Data security companies rallied as investors expected more demand for their services. Symantec leaped $1.05, or 3.4 percent, to $31.65 and FireEye rose 20 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $16.07.

GROCERY WOES: Grocery store chain Kroger said intense competition with Target and Wal-Mart forced it to cut prices in the second quarter, which hurt its profits. Making matters worse, after the quarter ended Amazon.com completed its purchase of Whole Foods and immediately cut prices on many items. Kroger didn't change its annual forecast, but that projection doesn't account for the hurricanes, which may hurt its sales.

Kroger dropped $1.84, or 8.1 percent, to $20.93. Supervalu fell $1.60, or 7.6 percent, to $19.49 and Target and Wal-Mart took smaller losses.

TECH SLUMP: Information technology company Science Applications International came up short of Wall Street estimates in the second quarter and SAIC shares slid $11.99, or 16.1 percent, to $62.67. Elsewhere, Apple shed $1.94, or 1.2 percent, to $159.32. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices sank 49 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $12.15 and Qualcomm fell 87 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $49.51.

BONDS: Bond prices dipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 percent from 2.05 percent. Still, banks moved higher after sharp losses the previous day.

ENERGY: Energy companies fell as benchmark U.S. crude skidded $1.65, or 3.4 percent, to $47.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 84 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $53.65 a barrel in London.

METALS: Gold rose 90 cents to $1,351.20 an ounce. Silver added 1 cent to $18.12 an ounce. Copper retreated 10 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $3.04 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 107.79 yen from 108.65 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.2031 from $1.2003.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: The German DAX picked up 0.1 percent and the FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.3 percent. In France, the CAC 40 declined less than 0.1 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.6 percent after the country's economic growth rate was reduced. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5 percent and the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.1 percent.

(BE)