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US: Stocks fall; travel shares lose after Brussels attacks


[NEW YORK] Petroleum-linked stocks led the broader US stock market lower Wednesday, while airlines and most travel stocks fell again one day after the deadly Brussels attacks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 79.98 points (0.45 per cent) to 17,502.59.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 13.09 (0.64 per cent) to 2,036.71, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 52.80 (1.10 per cent) to 4,768.86.

Dow member Chevron fell 2.0 per cent, while ConocoPhillips tumbled 4.9 per cent as US oil prices fell below US$40 a barrel.

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The bombings in Brussels Tuesday that killed 31 people and wounded some 270 continued to reverberate through the market, hitting especially shares of companies tied to travel and tourism as security tightened across Europe.

United Airlines lost 1.2 per cent and hotel chain Hilton Worldwide shed 1.5 per cent. Online travel stocks TripAdvisor and Priceline also fell.

Dow member Nike fell 3.8 per cent after reporting that third-quarter sales were US$8 billion, below the US$8.2 billion expected by analysts. The results raised concerns about the sneaker and sports apparel giant ahead of a heavy summer season for sports that includes the 2016 Olympics.

Gilead Sciences lost 3.9 per cent after a California jury ruled that rival drug company Merck should be able to seek royalties for Gilead's profitable Sovaldi drug for hepatitis C.

Dow member Merck rose 0.1 per cent Software company Red Hat lost 3.1 per cent as it reported fourth-quarter earnings of US$53 million, up 10.4 per cent from the year-ago period. However, said the company's US$764 million in billings came in a bit below expectations.

Yum Brands rose 2.0 per cent following reports the company, which owns the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, is in talks to sell a stake in its China operations.

Analysts said the market was due for a pause.

"The market's been pretty strong for a while and it's time we consolidate the recent gains," said Bill Lynch, director of investment at Hinsdale Associates. "There may be some profit-taking."