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Stocks end mixed; Twitter dives 20%

Stocks end mixed; Twitter dives 20%
Flags fly at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Stocks recovered from a broad decline to end mixed on Thursday, the day before a key jobs report.

The market fell from the start, then drifted between gains and losses for much of the afternoon. Yields on Treasury bonds rose again, and the price of oil climbed above $50 a barrel for the first time since June.

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By the end of trading, seven of the 11 sectors of the Standard and Poor's 500 index were up, led by suppliers of basic materials. Healthcare and phone companies led the decliners.

The S&P 500 inched up 1.04 points, or 0.05%, to 2,160.77. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.53 points, less than 0.1%, to 18,268.50. The Nasdaq composite slipped 9.17 points, or 0.2%, to 5,306.85.

A report showing a low number of Americans seeking jobless benefits last week added to recent data suggesting that the economy is strengthening and that the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates soon. Super-low rates have helped fuel the seven-year bull market.

Investors reacted just as they did to solid numbers on the manufacturing and service sectors earlier in the week: They sold Treasury bonds, sending yields up. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 1.74% from 1.71% and is up nearly two- tenths of a point in a week, a big move.

Still, investors in stocks generally showed little conviction, with none of the industry groups of the S&P 500 moving more than 0.8% in either direction.

"Interest rates, presidential elections, there is a lot of uncertainty," said Jonathan D. Corpina, senior managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners. "Portfolio managers are still waiting to see how to position themselves."

On Friday, investors will get a clue on how quickly rates may rise when a report on the number of jobs created last month is released.

In stocks making moves Thursday, Twitter plunged 20% to $19.87 on reports that some companies that were believed to be interested in buying it actually are not interested. Rumors of a deal had sent Twitter up 33% in the 11 trading days through Wednesday.

Mylan slumped 3% to $36.84 after reports the company overcharged Medicaid for its EpiPen allergy treatment over five years.

Wal-Mart slid 3.2% to $69.36 after the world's largest retailer said it expects no earnings per share growth in its next fiscal year and will slow its store expansion plans.

Investors will turn their attention to the start of corporate earnings next week. Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report that earnings per share fell 2% in the third quarter compared with the year-earlier quarter, according to data provider FactSet. That would make it the sixth quarter in a row in declines.

That is a remarkable development given that stocks are near record highs, though many investors expect this "earnings recession" to end in this year's fourth quarter.

James Abate, chief investment officer of Centre Asset Management, is not one of them.

"The stock market is increasingly becoming detached from the underlying trend in earnings," he said. Investors, he added, are far too optimistic.

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In California companies making big moves, ICU Medical climbed nearly 15% to $144.68 after the San Clemente company agreed to buy an infusion pump business from Pfizer for $1 billion in cash and stock.

Lam Research rose 4.2% to $100.19 after the Fremont, Calif., maker of semiconductor equipment called off a merger with rival KLA-Tencor after facing opposition from antitrust regulators.

Meanwhile, the dollar continued its climb. It rose to 104.14 yen, its highest level in a month, from 103.64 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1141 from $1.1212.

In European trading, Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 each shed 0.2%. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.5%.

The British pound continued to drop on concerns that Britain is moving ahead with its decision to the leave the European Union and could exit the bloc's tariff-free single market. The pound fell 0.8% to $1.2608, its lowest level since the June 23 vote to leave the EU.

U.S. benchmark crude oil rose 61 cents to $50.44 a barrel, its first close above $50 a barrel since June 23.

Brent crude, the international standard, rose 65 cents to $52.51 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline edged up less than 1 cent to $1.50 a gallon, heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.60 a gallon and natural gas rose less than 1 cent to $3.05 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold slumped $15.60 to $1,253 an ounce, silver fell 35 cents to $17.35 an ounce and copper fell 1 cent to $2.16 a pound.

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UPDATES:

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices and additional information.

8 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

This article was originally published at 7:05 a.m.

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