Midday Update: Stocks Struggling to Hold Gains As Pressure on Healthcare, Energy Sectors Weigh

Stocks were narrowly lower Thursday afternoon, with losses in the energy and healthcare sector compromising an early advance for the S&P 500 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly climbed into the plus column supported by gains for interest-rate sensitive financial stocks before turning lower again.

Q3 earnings fueled impressive gains before the opening bell, with strong results by Facebook ( FB ) and Ralph Lauren ( RL ) upstaging disappointing results by Qualcomm ( QCOM ) and Whole Foods ( WFM ). Aftershocks from comments yesterday by Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggesting the central bank is close to pulling the trigger on its first interest-rate increase in nearly a decade also continued to reverberate through the U.S. markets today.

Economic data today was mixed, including a 1.6% gain in Q3 non-farm productivity outpacing expectations for a much more benign 0.1% increase and overshadowing a big miss on unit labor costs, and a 16,000 increase in weekly jobless claims.

The healthcare sector was sideswiped by news of a Congressional probe into escalating drug prices, triggered by recent accusations against Valeant ( VRX ) and Turing Pharmaceuticals, while energy shares were mostly underwater following another down day for crude oil.

European equities finished mixed. with London unable to extend its three-day winning streak despite an inflation report from the Bank of England that dimmed the likelihood for an interest-rate increase during the first half of 2016. French and German markets were higher, however, lifting the Euro Stoxx50 into the green.

Crude oil for December delivery was down 52 cents at $45.80 per barrel. December natural gas was up 8 cents at $2.34 per 1 million BTU. December gold was up $1.20 to $1,107.40 per ounce. December silver was down 2 cents to $15.03 per ounce. December copper was down 6 cents to $2.26 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the US Oil Fund was up down 1.01% to $14.70 while the US Natural Gas Fund was 3.63% higher to $9.92. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold was down 3.21% to $14.15 while the SPDR Gold Shares ETF was 0.03% lower at $106.00. The iShares Silver Trust was down about 0.24% to $14.35.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index down 12.47 (-0.12%) to 10,551.49

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 6.11 (-0.03%) to 17,861.47

S&P 500 down 2.47 (-0.12%) to 2,099.84

Nasdaq Composite Index down 22.19 (-0.43%) to 5,120.29


Nikkei 225 Index up 1.00%

Hang Seng Index down 0.01%

Shanghai China Composite Index up 1.83%

FTSE 100 Index down 0.75%

CAC 40 up 0.64%

DAX up 0.39%


NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.43%

NYSE Financial Sector Index up 0.10%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.08%


(+) SEDG (+28.81%) Reported better-than-expected Q1 results, provides upbeat Q2 outlook

(+) AWAY (+24.63%) Expedia (EXPE) offered $3.9 billion in cash and stock for Home Away

(+) SCSS (+18.75%) Reported better-than-expected Q3 results

(+) RL (+16.56%) Beat EPS estimates by $0.39 and reported better-than-expected revenue


(-) XENT (-24.87%) Reported a wider-than-expected Q3 loss

(-) FEYE (-22.54%) Downbeat Q3 results followed by FBR Capital downgrade to market perform from outperform

(-) LCI (-16.38%) Beat fiscal Q1 estimates but downgraded at Craig-Hallum to hold from buy

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2016 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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