US stocks make small gains, led by health care stocks – Town Hall

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks finished just a bit higher Monday as gains for drug companies were almost canceled by sharp losses for metals and energy companies.

Coming off two weeks of losses, stocks traded in a narrow range. Drug company stocks, which have been under pressure recently over concerns they’ll have trouble raising prices for medicines, moved sharply higher. The energy market was shaken up and the price of oil fell as Saudi Arabia replaced its oil minister. Metals companies tumbled on renewed worries about China’s economy.

“The S&P 500 is kind of stuck in a range and it’s been in that range, really, since the middle of March,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. After Friday’s weak jobs report and an uninspiring earnings season, Frederick thinks stocks will stay where they are for now.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged down 34.72 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,705.91 as machinery maker Caterpillar and energy giant Chevron lost ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 1.55 points to 2,058.69. The Nasdaq composite index rose 14.05 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,750.21.

Health care stocks, one of the worst-performing areas of the market this year, made a broad rally. Botox maker Allergan jumped after reporting encouraging results from a late-stage clinical study of a treatment for uterine fibroids, a noncancerous growth in the uterus. The stock climbed $12.06, or 6 percent, to $213.71. Mallinckrodt, which has tumbled in recent months as investors worried about its ability to raise drug prices, added $3.45, or 6.1 percent, to $59.85.

Health care real estate investment trust HCP rose after a strong earnings report. HCP gained $1.44, or 4.2 percent, to $35.99. Health care products giant Johnson & Johnson picked up 98 cents to $113.72.

U.S. crude fell $1.22, or 2.7 percent, to $43.44 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell $1.74, or 3.8 percent, to $43.63 a barrel in London. Among energy companies, Chevron gave up $1.51, or 1.5 percent, to $100.35 and ConocoPhillips fell $1.11, or 2.6 percent, to $41.65.

The energy market was unsettled after the government of Saudi Arabia replaced its longtime oil minister over the weekend. Ali al-Naimi held that position for 20 years and was a powerful voice within OPEC. He was dismissed as the government plans a series of reforms that are intended to overhaul the kingdom’s economy as it deals with the effects of a steep drop in oil prices.

Reports showed that China’s exports fell by 1.8 percent in April from a year earlier and imports plunged 10.9 percent. Both totals were weaker than analysts expected. China is a critical market for fuels and metals, and investors worried that the import and export data means demand is getting weaker.

“If the growth is slowing, that reduces the demand for all sorts of metals,” said Frederick. He added that the Chinese yuan has weakened recently, and it could fall further if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates soon.

Gold dropped $27.40, or 2.1 percent, to $1,266.60 an ounce and silver lost 44 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $17.09 an ounce. Copper sank 5 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $2.11 a pound.

Gold producer Newmont Mining fell $2.30, or 6.7 percent, to $31.83. Gold and copper miner Freeport-McMoRan lost $1.27, or 10.8 percent, to $10.52 and aluminum producer Alcoa fell 58 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $9.46.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts agreed to be taken private by coffee giant JAB Beech for about $1.35 billion, or $21 per share. The company’s board approved the sale and shareholders will vote on it in June. Krispy Kreme’s stock jumped $4.10, or 24.3 percent, to $20.96.

LendingClub tumbled $2.48, or 34.9 percent, to 4.62 after its chairman and CEO resigned. The company, an online marketplace that connects borrowers and investors, said Renaud Laplanche left after an internal review of the sale of $22 million in loans to an investor.

LendingClub said he violated company business practices and didn’t fully disclose his actions during a company review.

Meat producer Tyson Foods raised its annual forecasts after its second-quarter results surpassed Wall Street estimates. Its stock added 99 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $68.24. Competitor Hormel Foods rose $1.19, or 3.1 percent, to $39.74.

CBS and Viacom slumped after a judge dismissed a case that challenged the mental competency of Sumner Redstone, who controls both companies. An ex-girlfriend had challenged the 92-year-old’s ability to make decisions about his medical care. Viacom’s fell 89 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $40.43 and CBS lost $1.68, or 2.9 percent, to $56.

Germany’s DAX stock index jumped after figures showed factory orders climbed in March. February’s figures were also revised higher. The DAX advanced 1.1 percent while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares dipped 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index sank 2.8 percent. Seoul’s Kospi was off 0.4 percent while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 0.7 percent.

Bond prices continued to rise. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 1.75 percent from 1.78 percent late Friday. The dollar rose to 108.48 yen from 107.13 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1389 from $1.1401.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay