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US: Stocks dip; Square, Match Group surge

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[NEW YORK] Tech companies Square and Match surged in their first day of trade on Thursday, but US stocks ended slightly lower following a profit warning from Dow member UnitedHealth Group.

Mobile payments startup Square and online dating company the Match Group both pushed higher after completing widely-anticipated initial public offerings. Square shot up 45.2 per cent, while Match bolted 22.8 per cent higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 4.41 points (0.02 per cent) to 17,732.75.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 2.34 (0.11 per cent) to 2,081.24, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 1.56 (0.03 per cent) to 5,073.64.

UnitedHealth suffered the biggest decline in the Dow, falling 5.7 per cent as it projected a US$425 million hit to fourth-quarter earnings due to the deteriorating outlook for health exchange participation under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Other health insurers fell. Aetna lost 6.5 per cent, Anthem 6.9 per cent and Humana 4.0 per cent.

Pharma companies Pfizer and Allergan lost 3.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent after the US Treasury announced plans to counter moves by companies to merge with non-US companies to lower their tax bills.

Pfizer is in advanced talks to buy Ireland-based Allergan for a possible price of as much as US$150 billion to move its corporate domicile to Allergan's low-tax home in Ireland.

Embattled pharma company Valeant jumped 15.7 per cent following a favourable report from Citigroup. Valeant has been under fire over its drug pricing and accounting practices. Citigroup said the concerns on Valeant were "overdone," Bloomberg reported.

Yahoo fell 1.1 per cent following a call by activist shareholder Starboard Value for the tech company to not sell its stake in China's Alibaba and instead divest Yahoo's search and display advertising business.

Best Buy dropped 2.1 per cent after reporting third-quarter net income of US$125 million, up 16.8 per cent from the year-ago period. RBC Capital said the electronics retailer's cautious commentary about the holiday shopping season was concerning.

AFP