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S&P 500's Three-Day Win Streak Ends    02/21 16:02

   Health care and energy companies led U.S. stocks lower Thursday, ending a 
three-day winning streak for the S&P 500 and giving the benchmark index only 
its fourth loss this month.

   (AP) -- Health care and energy companies led U.S. stocks lower Thursday, 
ending a three-day winning streak for the S&P 500 and giving the benchmark 
index only its fourth loss this month.

   The modest sell-off came as investors weighed mixed economic data and 
company earnings reports while keeping an eye on Washington, where U.S. and 
Chinese negotiators resumed high-level talks aimed at ending their costly trade 
dispute. Treasury yields rose and the price of gold fell.

   Some of the selling may have been driven by traders electing to take some 
profits following a big rebound in recent weeks, which came after a steep 
sell-off in the last three months of 2018, said Erik Wytenus, global investment 
specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

   "Markets need a little bit of an opportunity to breathe," he said. "We 
definitely have seen some market participants lightening up some risk, given 
the size of that bounce back, because any way you slice it, we're late in the 
(economic) cycle."

   The S&P 500, which has risen for the past three weeks, fell 9.82 points, or 
0.4 percent, to 2,774.88. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 103.81 points, 
or 0.4 percent, to 25,850.63.

   The Nasdaq composite declined 29.36 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,459.71. The 
Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 6.11 points, or 0.4 percent, to 

   Major European indexes finished mostly higher. 

   The sell-off followed a torrid rise for stocks since late December. The S&P 
500 index is still up 10.7 percent for 2019. That's a better performance than 
the index has turned in for three of the last four full years.

   Thursday's losses were broad, with health care stocks, banks, energy and 
communications companies accounting for much of the decline. CVS Health dropped 
2.9 percent, while SVB Financial Group lost 2.1 percent. CenturyLink fell 4.1 
percent. Oil and natural gas explorer Concho Resources slid 7.8 percent.

   Stocks headed lower from the get-go Thursday morning on a mix of new 
economic data.

   The Labor Department said fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits 
last week than economists expected, an encouraging sign that layoffs are low. A 
separate report said that orders for big-ticket manufactured goods weren't as 
strong in December as expected. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors 
said sales of previously occupied U.S. homes fell 1.2 percent in January to 
their worst pace in more than three years.

   The mixed data add to concerns that economic growth will slow in the United 
States and around the world this year.

   Despite the solid profit growth in the last quarter, investors are cautious 
about business conditions going forward as signs of weakness in the global 
economy emerge. The long-running, costly trade dispute between the U.S. and 
China has also clouded the outlook for company profits this year.

   "Trade is the big one right now, because there's still a lot of uncertainty 
on it," said Craig Birk, chief investment officer at Personal Capital.

   The world's two biggest economies are locked in a trade war that President 
Donald Trump started over allegations that China deploys predatory tactics to 
try to overtake U.S. technological dominance. Beijing's unfair tactics, trade 
analysts agree, include pressuring American companies to hand over trade 
secrets and in some cases stealing them outright.

   The Trump administration has warned it will increase its import taxes on 
$200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent if the two sides 
haven't reached a resolution by March 2. But Trump in recent days has signaled 
a willingness to extend the deadline if negotiators are making progress.

   "The big thing is just avoiding the hike to 25 percent tariffs," Birk said. 
"The 10 percent (tariffs) had a real impact, but it was easily absorbed by the 
economy and most people didn't change the fundamental way they operated their 
business. A 25 percent tariff on many goods would be a different story and have 
much bigger impact."

   Traders also got a mixed picture in the latest batch of company earnings 
reports Thursday.

   Domino's Pizza slumped 9.1 percent after the pizza chain reported weak 
growth at its stores in the fourth quarter and results fell short of Wall 
Street forecasts.

   Avis Budget Group jumped 17.1 percent after reporting earnings that were 
much better than analysts were expecting.

   Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings climbed 3.4 percent after the cruise line 
operator's revenue surged in the fourth quarter and it gave investors a solid 

   Johnson & Johnson lost 0.7 percent after the world's biggest maker of health 
care products disclosed that it had received federal subpoenas related to 
litigation over its baby powder.

   Benchmark U.S. crude slid 0.3 percent to settle at $56.96 a barrel in New 
York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell was little changed at 
$67.07 a barrel in London.

   Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.69 
percent from 2.65 percent late Wednesday.

   The dollar fell to 110.68 yen from 110.84 yen on Wednesday. The euro 
weakened to $1.1336 from $1.1350.

   Gold slid 1.5 percent to $1,327.80 an ounce. Silver slumped 2.3 percent to 
$15.80 an ounce. Copper dropped 0.8 percent to $2.90 a pound.

   In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline rose 1 percent to $1.61 
a gallon. Heating oil added 0.9 percent to $2.04 a gallon. Natural gas gained 
2.3 percent to $2.70 per 1,000 cubic feet. 


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