US stock indexes edge mostly higher in midday trading
Energy companies led U.S. stocks mostly higher in midday trading Wednesday as crude oil prices headed higher. Health care stocks slumped after President-elect Donald Trump said the government needs to overhaul its bidding process for drugs from pharmaceutical companies. Investors were looking ahead to the start of corporate earnings reports later this week.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 73 points, or 0.4 percent, to 19,928 as of 12 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,271. The Nasdaq composite index fell less than 1 point to 5,551. The Nasdaq has closed at a record high the past four days in a row.
TRUMP FACTOR: During a press conference Wednesday morning, Trump said the government has to create new bidding procedures for the pharmaceutical drug industry "because they're getting away with murder." The remarks sent health care stocks broadly lower. Several pharmaceutical companies slumped, with Endo International falling 10.3 percent, the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The stock slid $1.58 to $13.73. Perrigo lost $7.12, or 8.5 percent, to $76.53. Mallinckrodt tumbled $4.29, or 8 percent, to $49.46.
UNAPPETIZING RESULTS: SuperValu slid 8.4 percent after the grocery store operator announced a weak third-quarter profit, partly because of falling food prices. The stock shed 40 cents to $4.39.
SALES SLUMP: Signet Jewelers slid 3.7 percent after the company cut its profit forecast for the fourth quarter and current fiscal year. Signet said its total sales fell 5 percent over the holidays, citing technical problems at its e-commerce business. The stock fell $3.25 to $84.21.
DISAPPOINTING FORECAST: Auto parts supplier BorgWarner was down 2.8 percent after it issued a profit and sales forecast that fell short of what Wall Street was anticipating. The stock shed $1.13 to $39.64.
FASTER IS BETTER: Drugmaker Merck rose 2.2 percent on news that the Food and Drug Administration will do a quick review of one of the company's drugs for its potential to treat a type of lung cancer. The stock added $1.31 at $61.23.
HEALTHY OUTLOOK: Intuitive Surgical gained 1.6 percent after the robotic surgical systems maker delivered a strong fourth-quarter sales forecast. The stock rose $10.77 to $672.97.
EARNINGS SEASON: Big U.S. companies start reporting fourth-quarter earnings this week. On Friday JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America release their results. Still, investors had their eye on a few companies that released quarterly results Wednesday.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX was up 0.5 percent, while France's CAC 40 was essentially flat. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent. In Asia, a strong earnings forecast from Samsung Electronics helped drive gains on the South Korean stock market, where the Kospi added 1.5 percent and hit its highest close in over a year. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up $1.23, or 2.4 percent, at $52.05 a barrel in New York, having lost $1.14 the day before. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, was up $1.28, or 2.4 percent, at $54.92 a barrel in London.
BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.36 percent from 2.38 percent late Tuesday.
CURRENCIES: The pound continued to weaken amid concern that Britain might break off completely from the European Union's single market. The currency was trading at $1.2066, down from $1.2163 the day before. The dollar rose to 116.61 yen from 115.73 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.0476 from $1.0560.