Sinking energy stocks pull S&P 500 to fourth straight loss

U.S. stocks took another small step backward on Wednesday after a plunge in the price of oil dragged down shares of energy producers. The losses overshadowed gains for technology companies and other areas of the market.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped by a fraction of a point, down 0.30 to 2,629.27, and it's down 0.5% this week. It was the fourth straight loss for the index, the first time that has happened since March.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.73 points, or 0.2%, to 24,140.91, the Nasdaq composite rose 14.16, or 0.2%, to 6,776.38 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks lost 7.88, or 0.5%, to 1,508.88.

Stocks have been mostly drifting lower this week following a strong run for markets this year. The ups and downs have come as the Senate and House of Representatives try to iron out differences in their proposals to overhaul the tax system, and investors shift their portfolios toward companies that stand to benefit most from lower rates.

The market, which is still up more than 17% for the year, is also in a relatively quiet period. Companies have finished reporting how much profit they made in the summer, and fourth-quarter reports won't start again in earnest for more than a month.

The market's biggest movers were energy stocks, which sank with the price of oil. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.66 to settle at $55.96 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.64 to $61.22 a barrel.

That led to a 1.3% loss for energy stocks in the S&P 500. Oil company Newfield Exploration fell $2.12, or 6.9%, to $28.44 for the biggest loss of any stock in the S&P 500.

Companies in the dental industry also were weak, hurt by fears that their industry is the next that Amazon will upend. Patterson Companies lost $1.51, or 4.2%, to $34.81, and Henry Schein fell $3.52, or 5%, to $67.58.

On the winning side was DaVita, which jumped to the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after UnitedHealth Group said it will buy DaVita's medical group, which serves patients through nearly 300 medical clinics, for $4.9 billion in cash. DaVita gained $8.27, or 13.6%, to $69.20.

Technology stocks also rose, and they recovered some of their losses from earlier in the week.

Treasury yields sank as prices for government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 2.33% from 2.35% late Tuesday.

The dollar dipped to 112.28 Japanese yen from 112.62 yen late Monday. The euro fell to $1.1793 from $1.1816, and the British pound slipped to $1.3375 from $1.3442.

Gold ticked up by $1.20 to $1,266.10 per ounce, and silver fell 11 cents to $15.96 per ounce.


UPDATES:

2:20 p.m.: This article was updated with the market’s close.

This article was originally published at 7:35 a.m.

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