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Wednesday December 11th, 2019 12:37PM

US stocks close out half-day session with broad losses

By The Associated Press
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Stocks fell broadly on Wall Street Friday following a shortened trading session a day after the Thanksgiving holiday that left the market slightly below its record highs.

Technology, health care and industrial stocks accounted for a big slice of the selling. Several big retailers also dragged the market lower as traders watched for signs that Black Friday got off to a strong start. Energy stocks took the heaviest losses as crude oil prices fell sharply. Bond yields rose.

Even with the pullback, the S&P 500 notched its seventh weekly gain in eight weeks. The benchmark index also closed out November with its strongest monthly gain since June.

"You had three solid days, plus the S&P was at an all-time high as of the close on Wednesday,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. “Really, from early October until now, it's been almost like a ruler straight up."

The S&P 500 index dropped 12.65 points, or 0.4%, to 3,140.98. The index hit all-time highs the first three days of the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 112.59 points, or 0.4%, to 28,051.41. The Nasdaq slid 39.70 points, or 0.5%, to 8,665.47. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 9.60 points, or 0.6%, or 1,624.50. Trading volume was lighter than usual with the markets open for only a half day.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.77% from 1.76% late Wednesday.

The three major stock indexes have notched multiple record highs in recent weeks. That helped drive their gains in November. The S&P 500 ended the month with a 3.4% gain, while the Dow rose 3.7%. The Nasdaq, which is weighted heavily with technology stocks, gained 4.5%.

The stock market has been grinding mostly higher after shaking off recession fears that helped knock stocks into a skid this summer.

Better-than-expected corporate earnings, solid economic data and interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve helped fuel the market's fall rally. Investors have also grown more optimistic about the prospects for a trade deal between the U.S. and China.

New U.S. tariffs are set to kick in on many Chinese-made products as of Dec. 15, but negotiators have said they might soon have a preliminary deal that could avert that.

Chipmakers were among the biggest decliners in the technology sector Friday. Lam Research and Qualcomm each fell 1.5%.

Drugmakers helped pull the health stocks lower. Bristol-Myers Squibb dropped 1.1%.

Energy stocks were the biggest losers as the price of U.S. crude oil slid 5.1%. Devon Energy dropped 2.8% and Helmerich & Payne fell 2.3%.

Benchmark crude oil fell $2.94 to settle at $55.17 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped $1.44 to close at $62.43 a barrel.

Shares in several big retailers declined as Black Friday, traditionally the kickoff for the holiday shopping season, got underway. Macy’s fell 1%, Gap dropped 1.8%, Kohl’s slid 2.7% and Nordstrom slipped 0.4%.

Some bucked the downward trend. J.C. Penney rose 1.8%, Walmart added 0.3% and TJX, parent of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other stores, gained 0.3%.

This year retailers have less time to woo consumers because Thanksgiving fell on the fourth Thursday in November, making the holiday shopping season six days shorter.

The National Retail Federation baked the shorter season into its forecast, which calls for holiday sales to rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth seen in the November and December 2018 period.

"Black Friday really starts on Nov. 1 and goes all the way until the end of December, so you have this two-month period that you really have to look at before you really see how well companies are doing," Martin said.

Traders bid up shares in Tech Data after Apollo Global Management raised its offer to buy the technology company to $145 per share in cash from $130. The stock surged 12.3%.

U.S. Steel fell 5.8% following reports that a water pipe burst at the company’s steel mill in Gary, Indiana.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline fell 8 cents to $1.60 per gallon. Heating oil declined 7 cents to $1.88 per gallon. Natural gas dropped 22 cents to $2.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $11.90 to $1,472.70 per ounce, silver gained 5 cents to $17.11 per ounce and copper fell 3 cents to $2.66 per pound.

The dollar fell to 109.48 Japanese yen from 109.53 yen on Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.1017 from $1.1009.

Major stock indexes in Europe ended broadly lower.

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