Market report

Wall Street slips as price of crude slides sharply

NEW YORK -- Wall Street ticked lower Wednesday after another sharp slide for the price of crude dragged down oil-and-gas stocks.

The S&P 500 slipped 17.84, or 0.4%, to 4,549.34 for its third straight loss, locking in its longest losing streak since October. Each of those drops was modest, though, and the index remains near its best level in 20 months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 70.13, or 0.2%, to 36,054.43, and the Nasdaq composite lost 83.20, or 0.6%, to 14,146.71.

Energy stocks had the market's worst drops by far. Shares of Halliburton sank 3.6%, and Marathon Oil fell 3.5% after crude oil touched its lowest price since June.

A barrel of benchmark U.S. crude tumbled roughly 4% as expectations build that the world has too much oil available for the global economy's demand. It sank below $70, down more than $20 since September. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 3.8% to $74.30 per barrel.

Losses for Big Tech stocks, which are some of Wall Street's most influential, also weighed on the market. Nvidia shares dropped 2.3%, and Microsoft lost 1%.

Helping to limit the market's losses was a gain of 1.9% for homebuilder Toll Brothers, which reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It also said demand from buyers has remained solid so far in the current quarter, thanks in part to slightly easier rates available for mortgages.

Mortgage rates have regressed as Treasury yields have dropped on hopes that the Federal Reserve may finally be finished with its barrage of interest rate increases, meant to get high inflation under control. Wall Street is betting the Fed's next move will be to cut rates, possibly as early as March, which would juice the economy and financial markets.

More reports arrived Wednesday that bolstered those hopes. The Federal Reserve's next meeting on interest rates is in a week, and the widespread expectation is for it to leave its main interest rate alone at its highest level in more than two decades.

One report said private employers added fewer jobs last month than economists expected. While no one on Wall Street wants to see widespread layoffs, a cooldown in the job market could remove upward pressure on inflation.

A more comprehensive report on the job market from the U.S. government will arrive Friday, one that can cause big swings on Wall Street.

"What we don't know is how much the markets have already priced in a slowing labor market, or how they will react if Friday's data comes in stronger than anticipated," said Chris Larkin, managing director, trading and investing at E-Trade from Morgan Stanley.

A separate report on Wednesday said U.S. businesses were able to increase the amount of stuff they produced in the summer by more than the total number of hours their employees worked. That stronger-than-expected gain in productivity more than offset increases to workers' wages, and it could also keep a lid on inflationary pressures.

Treasury yields in the bond market were generally lower following the economic reports, and the 10-year yield fell to 4.11% from 4.17% late Tuesday. It was above 5% in October and at its highest level since 2007.

Within the S&P 500, Campbell Soup was the biggest winner. The shares rose 7.1% after reporting stronger profit for the latest quarter than expected.

Travel-related companies were also strong as falling crude prices relieved some pressure on them. Carnival shares rose 5.9%, and Royal Caribbean Line gained 3.4%.

Airlines also flew higher. Delta Air Lines shares climbed 3.5% after it told investors it's sticking to its forecasts for revenue and profit for the end of 2023. United Airlines rose 3.4%, and Southwest Airlines gained 3%.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Brown-Forman, the company whose brands include Jack Daniel's whiskey. It fell 10.4% after reporting weaker earnings than analysts had forecast. It also cut its forecast for a measure of sales growth for the full year.

Information for this article was contributed by Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach of The Associated Press.

Upcoming Events