Wall St slips as bank, health stocks drag

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NEW YORK (Feb 8): US stocks were slightly lower on Wednesday, weighed down by losses in bank and healthcare stocks.

Oil prices fell 0.5% as an increase in US crude inventories and a slump in Chinese demand implied that global oil markets remain oversupplied despite OPEC-led efforts to cut output.

The S&P 500 financial index, which has outperformed other sectors in a post-election rally, was down 0.83% and was on track for its third straight day of decline.

Healthcare was off 0.66%, dragged down by Gilead.

The drugmaker's stock, which also weighed on the S&P and the Nasdaq, was down 9.3% after the company projected disappointing sales for its hepatitis C drugs this year.

However, the fourth-quarter earnings season is expected to end on a high note. Combined earnings of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 8.2% — the most in nine quarters.

At 9.43am ET (1443 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 40.95 points, or 0.2%, at 20,049.34, the S&P 500 was down 5.31 points, or 0.23%, at 2,287.77 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 17.04 points, or 0.3%, at 5,657.18.

Walt Disney was up 1.6% at US$110.89 after Bob Iger said he was open to extending his term as chief executive officer.

Cognizant rose 4% to US$55.96 after the IT services provider named three directors to its board and announced a US$3.4 billion share buyback program, bowing to pressure from activist shareholder Elliott Management.

US carrier Alaska Air rose 2.5% to US$96.23 after the company reported a 10.7% jump in quarterly revenue.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,684 to 946. On the Nasdaq, 1,657 issues fell and 698 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed six new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 26 new highs and 18 new lows.