Early Gains Fade As U.S. Stocks Veer Lower In Afternoon Trade

Trader Gregory Rowe, center, wears a “Dow 26,000” hat as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. The Dow Jones industrial average traded above 26,000 for the first time. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Losses by industrial and energy companies helped pull U.S. stocks lower in afternoon trading Tuesday. The slide erased some of the gains from a broad rally earlier in the day that sent the Dow Jones industrial average past the 26,000-point threshold for the first time. Health care stocks were among the gainers as investors sized up the latest company earnings and deal news.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,777 as of 2:31 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points to 25,791. It was up as much as 282 points earlier. The Nasdaq shed 31 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,229. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 16 points, or 1 percent, to 1,575.

EARNINGS WATCH: Investors were watching for the impact of Washington’s latest tax changes on U.S. companies as earnings season for the final quarter of 2017 gets into full swing. Many multinational corporations are taking one-off charges for bringing home money held abroad. But investors expect them to benefit in the long run from the decision to cut the standard tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and are bidding up their share prices.

“A big concern is the market right now is: ‘Is tax reform priced in?’” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research.

BIG DECLINER: Industrial stocks accounted for much of the market’s afternoon pullback. General Electric led the sector’s decliners, sliding 3.6 percent after the company said it was taking a $6.2 billion charge related to its insurance portfolio. GE lost 70 cents to $18.05.

DEAL OR NO DEAL: Viacom slid 5.8 percent after following several reports saying the media company is not in talks to merge with CBS Corp. The tumble follows a sharp jump in Viacom Friday after a published report suggested that a merger might be a possibility. Viacom fell $1.96 to $31.80. CBS rose $1.01, or 1.7 percent, to $59.84.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 57 cents to settle at $63.73 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 99 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $69.27 in London.

The slide in oil prices weighed on energy sector stocks. Range Resources was down 88 cents, or 5 percent, to $16.70.

HEALTHY TURN: Merck led all other stocks in the S&P 500 as part of health care sector rally. Traders bid up shares in the drugmaker after it announced positive results from a clinical trial for a lung cancer treatment. The stock gained $3.95, or 6.7 percent, to $62.61.

HEFTY CHARGE: Citigroup rose 0.1 percent after the bank reported an $18.3 billion loss for the fourth quarter due to the new tax law. Excluding the one-time charges, Citigroup earned a profit. The stock was up 4 cents to $76.88.

HEALTHY QUARTER: UnitedHealth Group gained 2.3 percent after its said earnings more than doubled in the final quarter of 2017. The nation’s largest insurer also hiked its forecast well beyond expectations, largely due to help from the federal tax overhaul. The stock picked up $5.33 to $233.97.

IN GEAR: General Motors rose 0.5 percent after the automaker said it expects strong sales in North America and China will sustain its profit through the rest of this year. GM also said it will take a $7 billion write-down in 2017 tied to the U.S. tax overhaul. Its shares added 21 cents to $44.28.

HIGH-VOLTAGE BUYOUT: Energizer Holdings surged 13 percent after the company said it will acquire the battery and lighting assets of Spectrum Brands, which includes the Varta and Rayovac battery brands. Energizer shares added $6.70 to $58.32. Spectrum gained $3.83, or 3.2 percent, to $124.31.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.54 percent from 2.55 percent late Friday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged higher after days of heavy losses. The U.S. currency was down to 110.37 yen from 110.52 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.2278 from $1.2181.

THE BITCOIN TRADE: The price of bitcoin was down 14.3 percent to $11,647, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. Bitcoin futures on the Cboe Futures Exchange were down 14.5 percent to $11,800. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The price of the digital currency, which soared last year after starting 2017 under $1,000, has been hurt amid signs of potentially increased scrutiny from governments. South Korea’s top financial policymaker said Tuesday that banning trading in digital currencies was an option, adding such a move still needed to be reviewed by government ministries.

METALS: Gold rose $2.20 to settle at $1,337.10 an ounce. Silver added 5 cents to $17.19 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $3.22 a pound.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe were mixed. Germany’s DAX gained 0.3 percent and France’s CAC 40 added 0.1 percent. London’s FTSE 100 shed 0.2 percent. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.8 percent. Seoul’s Kospi rose 0.7 percent. India’s Sensex was unchanged, while markets in New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asia gained. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.5 percent.

By ALEX VEIGA - JAN 16. 2018 - 2:38 PM EDT AP