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Stocks close lower as Greece talks remain stuck

Uncertainty surrounding Greece's debts helped knock the U.S. stock market lower Thursday as an impasse between Greece and its creditors dragged on. The drop put major indexes on track for a weekly loss. Oil and gas stocks had some of the biggest losses as the price of crude sank 3 percent.

Major indexes headed lower at the outset of trading, briefly returned to the starting line, then lost ground throughout the afternoon.

Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust, said he thinks Greece and its creditors will eventually reach an agreement that allows the country to receive new loans. But just the possibility that Greece could default on its debts and become the first country to drop the euro currency makes investors nervous. “It creates a tremendous amount of anxiety because we don't have a playbook,” Smith said. “It just hasn't happened before.”

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 18.23 points, or 0.9 percent, to finish at 2,095.84. All 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor's 500 fell, with Du Pont and other materials companies leading the way down.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 170.69 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,905.58 and the Nasdaq composite lost 40.11 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,059.12.

Before the market opened, J.M. Smucker reported a loss in its latest quarter even though sales climbed. The maker of Folger's coffee said higher prices for coffee beans and a strong dollar pinched results. Smucker's stock fell $4.44, or 4 percent, to $113.75.

A report that Dish Network is talking to T-Mobile US about a possible merger sent both stocks up. The Wall Street Journal said that the two sides have yet to nail down crucial details, including a purchase price. Dish's stock jumped $3.44, or 5 percent, to $74.25, while T-Mobile's surged $1.01, or 3 percent, to $39.34.

A meeting on Wednesday between Greece's Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the head of the European Union's executive arm ran into the early morning hours on Thursday yet failed to yield an agreement to release vital loans. Later Thursday, Greece told the International Monetary Fund that it would postpone a payment due Friday and bundle it together with three other payments at the end of the month.

Major European markets finished broadly lower, erasing gains made earlier in the week. Germany's DAX sank 0.7 percent, while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.9 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares lost 1.3 percent. Greece's main index slumped 1.3 percent.

“It looks like investors put a bit too much stock in the … meeting last night,” said Connor Campbell, a trader at Spreadex.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up 0.1 percent. In China, the Shanghai index finished 0.8 percent higher, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.4 percent.

Back in the U.S., government bond prices rose, pushing Treasury yields down. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 2.31 percent from 2.36 percent late Wednesday.

Precious and industrial metals futures fell. Gold lost $9.70 to $1,175.20 an ounce, and silver sank 38 cents to $16.10 an ounce. Copper lost four cents to close at $2.69 a pound.

The price of oil fell nearly 3 percent on expectations that OPEC will decide to keep its output high at its Friday meeting in Vienna. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.64 to close at $58.00 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.77 to close at $62.03 a barrel in London.

In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 6.4 cents to close at $1.981 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 4.8 cents to close at $1.844 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.8 cents to close at $2.626 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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