December 19, 2014
Wall Street ends mixed, energy shares fall
US stocks ended mostly lower today, retreating from records set the previous month, as falling crude oil prices dragged energy shares down and offset strong manufacturing data.
The S&P energy index fell 1.3 percent as the prospect of slowing demand for oil in China and Europe and concerns about an oversupply of oil brought Brent crude oil futures to their lowest price since May 31, 2013. Peabody Energy Corp was the biggest loser among the S&P energy names, falling 3.7 percent to $15.29.
The strengthening dollar, which rose to its highest this year against the yen, was also seen as weighing on oil prices.
Despite the day's declines, energy shares have overall performed well, with the S&P 500 energy sector outperforming the wider S&P index so far in 2014.
US factory activity rose to its highest in nearly 3-1/2 years in August, and construction spending rebounded strongly in July.
Of the 30 stocks in the Dow industrials, Home Depot Inc was the worst performer, falling 2 percent to $91.15 after CNBC reported that hackers may have stolen credit card data from the company.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 30.89 points, or 0.18 percent, to 17,067.56. The S&P 500 ended down 1.09 points, or 0.05 percent, at 2,002.28. The Nasdaq Composite added 17.92 points, or 0.39 percent, to end at 4,598.19.
About 5.2 billion shares traded on all US platforms, according to BATS exchange data, compared with the five-day average of 4.4 billion.European shares rose, with French industrial group Legrand outperforming in response to a broker upgrade.
But European stock markets remained within a tight range as investors await the European Central Bank's (ECB) policy decision later this week.
While most market participants do not expect the ECB to take major easing steps this week, further measures are considered a matter of "when", not "if" in the face of risks to euro zone growth posed by low inflation as well as the Ukraine conflict, where Kiev forces are fighting pro-Russia separatists.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which has risen nearly 7 percent from its mid-August low, closed down 0.07 percent at 1,375.93, while the euro zone's Euro STOXX 50 index rose 0.6 percent to 3,194.16 points.
European shares have rallied following dovish comments by ECB President Mario Draghi, which sparked market bets that the central bank is preparing to pump more liquidity into the system, possibly via purchases of government or corporate bonds, a measure known as quantitative easing (QE).
Legrand rose 4.4 percent, making it the best-performing stock in percentage terms on the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised its rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral."
Industrial companies such as Legrand, which exports goods overseas, are expected to benefit from any new ECB action which could weaken the euro currency, as a weaker euro would help them sell their products abroad at more attractive prices.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei share average ended at a seven-month high in active trade as the yen slipped to a seven-month low against the dollar, sending exporters higher on hopes of a boost to earnings.
The Nikkei gained 1.2 percent to 15,668.60, the highest since mid January.
The broader Topix rose 1.1 percent to 1,297.00, and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 gained 1.1 percent to 11,763.89.
A total of 2.4 billion shares changed hands on the main board, the biggest since early August.
A planned cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supported sentiment, traders said.
The Nikkei business daily reported that Abe has decided to bring Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a veteran Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and vocal proponent of overhauling Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund, for the labor and welfare minister post.