The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

March 22, 2014

An early gain fades on Wall Street

An early surge on the stock market evaporated Friday, as health care stocks tugged major indexes down. Biotech companies were especially hard-hit after U.S. lawmakers questioned the pricing of a Hepatitis C drug made by Gilead Sciences.

The Standard & Poor past an all-time high in early trading, then lost steam in the afternoon. It still finished with a solid weekly gain, up 1.4 percent.

It might sound surprising that the stock market is trading near an all-time high with all the uncertainty surrounding China’s slowing growth and simmering tensions between Russia and the West. Last week, those concerns were credited with knocking the S&P 500 index down 1.9 percent, its worst weekly loss in nearly two months.

This week investors seemed to return their focus to the basics.

“There are always bad things going on in the world, but they don’t all matter to the ultimate direction of markets,” said Douglas Coté, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management. “The only thing that matters is the following: corporate earnings, manufacturing and the consumer. And they’ve all been solid.”

The S&P 500 slipped 5.49 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,866.52 Friday. It traded as high as 1,882 earlier in the day, four points above its record high reached March 7. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 28.28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,302.70. The Nasdaq composite dropped 42.50 points, or 1 percent, to 4,276.79.

Health care stocks fell the most in the S&P 500 index. Gilead lost $3.46, or 5 percent, to $72.07. Biogen Idec fell $28.51, or 8 percent, to $318.53. Nike fell after warning that a stronger U.S. dollar will dampen its results this quarter. Still, strong demand for its shoes and apparel ahead of the World Cup in June helped it beat analysts’ earnings expectations in the previous quarter.

Nike, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow, lost $4.06, or 5 percent, to $75.21.

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