US Stocks Slightly Lower on Healthcare

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were mostly lower in early trading Thursday. Healthcare stocks were among the biggest decliners after news last night that the White House supports waiving intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines to help immunize poorer countries faster.

The S&P 500 index lost 0.3% as of 10:10 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.7%.

Shares of drugmaker Moderna lost 9% after the company reported its first-ever quarterly profit, helped by the company's coronavirus vaccine. The drop was largely tied to the news from the White House, as shares of other drug companies like Pfizer and Merck were down 2% and 1%, respectively.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson fell much less than the other vaccine makers, partly because J&J has other businesses like Band-Aids, the pain reliever Tylenol and its baby products franchise.

Investors remain focused on corporate earnings, with results from Wall Street Journal publisher News Corp after the closing bell, and results from Cigna, Equifax and insurance giant AIG on Friday. Of the S&P 500 companies reporting so far, 84% topped analysts' expectations, according to FactSet.

Investors' attention is turning to Friday's jobs report for April. Economists expect the data to show employers hired 975,000 workers last month as the economy accelerated out of the pandemic and vaccines rolled out nationwide. The unemployment rate is expected to drop to 5.8% from 6%.

There have already been signs that the labor market is improving. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week fell to a pandemic low of 498,000. The payroll processing company ADP said Wednesday that private employers hired 742,000 workers last month.