Stocks Skid as Tech Companies Fall

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are sinking at midday Wednesday as losses for Texas Instruments and other chipmakers, as well as Apple, pull technology companies lower. The dollar is weaker after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the declining dollar is good for U.S. exporters, suggesting he isn't likely to try to stop the currency's recent slide. Gold and silver prices jumped. Airlines are falling sharply after United Continental said it plans to ramp up capacity.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was little changed at 2,839 as of noon a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 78 points, or 0.3 percent, to 26,288. The Nasdaq composite lost 33 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,427. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 8 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,602. The weaker dollar helps multinational companies by making their products less expensive, but it can be less beneficial for smaller, U.S.-focused companies. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

TECH TROUBLE: Texas Instruments dropped $7.26, or 7.1 percent, to $112.63 after analysts were disappointed with its revenue forecast for the current quarter. The chipmaker had made steep gains this year, as had some of its competitors. Nvidia dipped $3.25, or 1.4 percent, to $235.66 and Applied Materials gave up $1.20, or 2.1 percent, to $56.59.

Elsewhere, Apple lost $2.11, or 1.2 percent, to $174.93 and Facebook fell $1.52 to $187.83.

DOLLAR DOWN: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he's not concerned that the dollar has weakened because when the dollar goes down, it makes U.S. goods less expensive in other markets. That tends to help companies that sell a lot of products overseas, including technology and industrial companies. The ICE US dollar index fell almost 10 percent in 2017 and is down 3 percent so far this year.

Mnuchin said the dollar's strength reflects the performance of the U.S. economy, and it's grown at a faster pace recently. He also downplayed concerns that China plans to cut back on its purchases of U.S. Treasurys.

The dollar dropped to 109.07 yen from 110.30 yen. The euro advanced to $1.2391 from $1.2294.

Gold climbed 1.2 percent to $1,352 an ounce and silver rose 47 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $17.39 an ounce. Investors tend to push up prices for precious metals when they're worried about a weak dollar and the prospect of higher inflation.

STUCK ON THE TARMAC: United Continental plunged after it said it's planning more aggressive growth over the next few years. It's aiming to increase its passenger-carrying capacity by 4 to 6 percent a year through 2020. United has done better recently at handling competition with lower-cost carriers, but investors worried that more flights will mean reduced prices and hurt its profits. The stock plunged $9.39, or 12 percent, to $68.58.

Delta Air Lines dropped $3.67, or 6.1 percent, to $56.26 and American gave up $4.47, or 7.7 percent, to $53.82. Low-cost carrier Spirit skidded $3.31, or 7.4 percent, to $41.28.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.65 percent from 2.62 percent. That helped banks because higher yields let them charge higher interest rates on loans. JPMorgan Chase rose $96 cents to $115.17 and Citigroup gained 83 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $79.38. Meanwhile student loan company Navient surged 92 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $14.36 after a strong quarterly report.

SPIN CYCLE: Appliance maker Whirlpool continued to rally as the weaker dollar could boost its sales outside the U.S. It makes most of its sales in foreign markets. The stock rose 3.5 percent Tuesday after the Trump administration announced tariffs on washing machines imported into the U.S. That was its biggest in nine months, and on Wednesday it rose $6.71, or 3.9 percent, to $178.69, which put the stock on pace for its biggest gain in a year and a half.

GE MEETS THE SEC: General Electric had a solid fourth quarter, but the stock dropped after it said it's being investigated by federal regulators after disclosing a $15 billion charge to cover miscalculations by its North American Life & Health insurance business. The stock lost 41 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $16.48.

SORRY, GEOFFREY: Toys R Us, squeezed by Amazon.com and huge chains like Walmart and saddled with $5 billion in debt, said it will close 20 percent of its U.S. stores starting in February. That means it will close about 180 stores. Toys R Us' woes have hurt the already struggling toy maker Mattel. Mattel fell another 58 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $17.18. It's down 45 percent over the last year.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 64 cents, or 1 percent, to $65.11 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 15 cents to $70.11 a barrel in London.

OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX slumped 1.1 percent and the French CAC 40 fell 0.7 percent. The British FTSE 100 fell 1.1 percent. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.8 percent while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong index rose 0.1 percent. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 percent.

(BE)