By Marley Jay
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK -Technology and energy companies skidded Friday while banks and insurers recovered some of their recent losses, leaving major U.S. indexes little changed on the day and moderately lower for the week.
Credit monitoring company Equifax plunged after it disclosed a data breach that affects 143 million Americans. Competitors TransUnion and Experian also fell, while data security companies like Symantec jumped as investors expected they will get more business.
Grocery stores and food companies slumped as Kroger said stiff competition forced it to cut prices. Target also said it is lowering prices. Technology companies including Apple, Facebook, Intel and chipmakers weakened.
Hurricane Irma continued to devastate islands in the Caribbean.
The enormous storm killed at least 21 people, a total that is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search. It also left thousands of people homeless, and more than a million people in Florida and Georgia have been ordered to evacuate. Irma is expected to hit Florida over the weekend with winds surpassing 130 miles per hour.
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 effect on the stock market could linger because it will be hard for investors to tell how much of any individual company’s problems are caused by the weather.
“The next couple of months are going to be pretty cloudy,” Chalupnik 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.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3.67 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,461.43. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 13.01 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 21,797.79. The Nasdaq composite dropped 37.68 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 6,360.19. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 0.76 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,399.43. More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
Equifax, which hit all-time highs last month, took its biggest one-day loss since 1999 after it said a cyber intrusion exposed Social Security numbers and other information from 143 million Americans between mid-May and late July. Equifax tumbled $19.49, or 13.7 per cent, to $123.23. TransUnion fell $1.89, or 3.8 per cent, to $47.50 and Experian fell 0.7 per cent in London.
Security software company Symantec jumped $1.03, or 3.4 per cent, to $31.63 and competitor FireEye rose 24 cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $16.01.
Insurer Chubb rose $5.97, or 4.4 per cent, to $140.85 and XL Group regained $2.13, or 5.8 per cent, to $38.61. Still, investors expect the industry to take steep losses from Irma and Hurricane Harvey. Reinsurance companies, which sell policies that cover catastrophic losses like those caused by storms and floods, are down about 10 per cent since early August. Property and casualty insurers have also stumbled.
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 $1.71, or 7.5 per cent, to $21.06. Supervalu fell $1.43, or 6.8 per cent, to $19.66. Target shed $1.15, or 2 per cent, to $57.27 and Wal-Mart gave up $1.25, or 1.5 per cent, to $78.88.
Energy companies fell as benchmark U.S. crude skidded $1.61, or 3.3 per cent, to $47.48 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 71 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $53.78 a barrel in London.
Wholesale gasoline declined 1 cent to $1.65 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.77 a gallon. Natural gas sank 9 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Bond prices dipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 per cent from 2.05 per cent. Banks traded a bit higher. They had taken sharp losses on Thursday as bond yields and interest rates dropped.
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 per cent, to $3.04 a pound.
The dollar fell to 107.79 yen from 108.65 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.2028 from $1.2003.
Natural disasters affected markets outside the U.S. as well.
Mexico’s Bolsa stock index fell 0.7 per cent after a powerful earthquake hit near the southern coast. Authorities said least 58 people were killed.
The German DAX picked up 0.1 per cent and the FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.3 per cent. In France, the CAC 40 declined less than
0.1 per cent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.6 per cent after the country’s economic growth rate was reduced. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.1 per cent.