NEW YORK (AP) — Major U.S. indexes are drifting lower in afternoon trading Monday as energy companies fall with oil prices and banks slip along with bond yields. European markets mostly fell after the British government said it will formally begin the process of leaving the European Union next week.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,371 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,897. The Nasdaq composite fell 9 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,892. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks lost 9 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,382. Trading was relatively light.
The stock market has mostly been quiet this month. The market's two big moves were both linked to the Federal Reserve: on March 1 stocks jumped after the central bank signaled it would raise rates, and they climbed last Wednesday after the Fed made it clear it will move slowly for the rest of the year.
BRITAIN MUST BE GOING: Britain's government said it will trigger the process of leaving the EU on March 29. That will start a long negotiation between Britain and the EU, with uncertain effects for banks and other companies. The country is expected to officially leave the union in 2019.
Wells Fargo fell 79 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $57.88 and Synchrony Financial gave up 71 cents, or 2 percent, to $34.41.
CURRENCY: The British pound slipped to $1.2347 from $1.2396 late Friday, and it's down about 20 percent since Britain voted to leave the EU in late June. The dollar declined to 112.58 yen from 112.70 yen. The euro inched up to $1.0732 from $1.0743.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude declined 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $48.22 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 14 cents to $51.62 a barrel in London. Energy company stocks continued to struggle. Anadarko Petroleum lost $1.10, or 1.7 percent, to $62.15 and oilfield services company Schlumberger dipped $1.31, or 1.6 percent, to $78.24.
LEADERS AND LAGGARDS: Utilities, which have had a strong run over the last month, traded lower. Duke Energy lost 92 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $80.92. Technology stocks rose earlier in the day but turned lower after 1:30 p.m., which helped drag major market indexes down. Microsoft fell 7 cents to $64.80 and software maker Adobe Systems slid $1.15 to $125.86.
DIAMOND? MINE! Dominion Diamond climbed $2.14, or 21.6 percent, to $12. 60 after Washington Cos. went public with an offer to buy the diamond mining company for $13.50 per share, or about $1.1 billion. Dominion Diamond said it is willing to engage in talks but said Washington doesn't have experience in the diamond industry and questioned the timing of the offer. Washington Cos. said it first made its offer in February and that Dominion Diamond isn't willing to open its books.
DRUG DEVELOPMENT: Nektar Therapeutics soared after the company said an experimental pain drug met its goals in a late-stage study. Its NKTR-181 is an opioid drug designed to relieve pain without causing euphoria, which the company said can contribute to drug abuse and addiction. It studied NKTR-181 as a treatment for lower back pain. Nektar stock rose $6.38, or 41.2 percent, to $21.89.
Array BioPharma fell 51 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $10.06 after it withdrew a marketing application for its melanoma drug binimetinib. After Array talked to regulators, the company said it was clear they wouldn't approve the drug based on its most recent trial. It will continue studies of binimetinib.
OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 1 cent to $1.51 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 9 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet.
METALS: Gold rose $3.80 to $1,234 an ounce. Silver picked up 3 cents to $17.44 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $2.67 a pound.
TRADE: Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 major economies dropped a pledge to eschew protectionism in a statement Saturday. The move came after pressure from the U.S. During his campaign President Donald Trump promised to rewrite trade deals, and he ditched the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed pact between 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean which represented around 40 percent of global economic output.
BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.47 percent from 2.50 percent.
OVERSEAS: Britain's FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent. France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent and the DAX in Germany declined 0.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.8 percent and the Kospi in South Korea shed 0.4 percent. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.
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