US: S&P 500, Nasdaq slip; oil prices drag down energy

[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended lower on Tuesday as another big drop in oil prices dragged down energy shares and Priceline's earnings forecast disappointed.

The S&P 500 energy sector fell 1.9 per cent, extending the group's recent drop, the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF dropped 2.1 per cent, and Chevron Corp eased 1.2 per cent to US$115.37.

The Dow ended slightly higher, although was unable to break above its record close from Friday. While the market has bounced back strongly from its recent selloff, the energy sector remains under pressure from plunging oil prices.

US crude oil hit its lowest in about three years after Saudi Arabia cut sales prices to the United States.

Crude is down more than 30 per cent from a recent closing peak.

Adding to worries about global demand, the European Commission said the euro zone will need another year to reach even modest economic growth. A Reuters report said central bankers in the euro zone plan to challenge European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's leadership style. "Eventually, a slowdown in Europe could affect large US companies. So far, we have not seen much influence, at least in earnings reports. Next quarter could really be indicative of whether a slowdown in Europe is actually having an effect here,"said Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois.

Among other top negative influences, Priceline Group Inc shares dropped 8.4 per cent to US$1,097.70, among the largest percentage decliners on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, after it forecast quarterly earnings below Wall Street's expectations.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 17,383.84, the S&P 500 lost 5.71 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 2,012.1 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 15.27 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 4,623.64.

The Dow Jones transportation average rose 0.4 per cent and posted another record high close.

Results are awaited on the day's US elections, where a handful of toss-up US Senate races could hold the key to whether the stock market glides through the year-end in a typical post-midterm election rally or gets hit with a fresh bout of volatility.

Alibaba Group Holding rose 4.3 per cent to US$106.07 on massive volume after the Chinese e-commerce company reported its first quarterly results as a public company, posting revenue growth of 53.7 per cent.

The company is one of the largest in the world, but its rise did not directly translate to major indexes as it is not a component of the Dow or S&P 500 and it is not traded on the Nasdaq.

Among the day's other big decliners, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc lost 5.8 per cent to US$372.39 after it cut the top end of its full-year sales outlook for its blockbuster eye drug. But the company also said it is consulting with government agencies to see if its technology might be used to fight Ebola.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,837 to 1,231, for a 1.49-to-1 ratio on the downside. On the Nasdaq, 1,530 issues fell and 1,148 advanced for a 1.33-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.


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