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Early gain fades on Wall Street in afternoon trading

Published March 21, 2014 8:37 am
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New York • An early gain on the stock market was mostly gone Friday afternoon, weighed down by biotechnology companies. Symantec plunged after abruptly firing its CEO late Thursday, and Nike fell after warning of softer sales.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 fell three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,869 as of 2:47 p.m. Eastern time. It traded as high as 1,882 earlier, four points above its most recent record high close on March 7. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,350. The Nasdaq composite dropped 39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,279.

BIOTECH BATTERED: Health care stocks fell the most in the S&P 500 index. Biotech companies were especially hard-hit after lawmakers questioned the pricing of a Hepatitis C drug made by Gilead Sciences. Gilead lost $3.30, or 4.4 percent, to $72.23. Biogen Idec fell $30.36, or 9 percent, to $316.61. Biotech stocks have been on a tear recently. Gilead is still up 62 percent over the past year and Biogen is up 79 percent.

SWOOSH: Nike fell after warning that a stronger U.S. dollar will dampen its results this quarter. Strong demand for its shoes and apparel ahead of the World Cup in June helped its beat expectations in the previous quarter, the company said late Thursday. Nike, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow, lost $3.01, or 4 percent, to $76.25.

BOOTED: Symantec lost $2.63, or 13 percent, to $18.27. The maker of security software abruptly fired its CEO late Thursday. It was the second time in less than two years that the company has dismissed its chief executive.

COMPARE, CONTRAST: 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. But these concerns also highlight the relative health of the U.S. economy and stock market, said Dan Veru, chief investment officer of Palisade Capital Management in Fort Lee, N.J.

COMING BACK: A week ago, the S&P 500 index turned in a 1.9 percent weekly loss, its worst slump in nearly two months. This week looks entirely different, with the S&P 500 up 1.5 percent, as concerns have eased over China's slower economic growth.

The only stumble came Wednesday, when the Federal Reserve said it could start raising short-term interest rates as soon as next year. Traders drove down prices for gold, government bonds and stocks.

GOLDEN GATE'S TOUCH: News that Golden Gate Capital has acquired a stake in Ann Inc. sent the retailer's stock soaring $4.77, or 13 percent, to $42.02. The private equity firm disclosed the 9.5 percent stake in the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT late Thursday.

STRESSED: Zions Bancorporation, a regional bank based in Salt Lake City, fell $1.47, or 5 percent, to $31.52. Late Thursday, the Fed said Zions was the only one of 30 major U.S. banks that didn't pass an annual "stress test" that determines whether banks are have sufficient capital buffers to keep them lending through an economic crisis.

TREASURYS AND COMMODITIES: Prices for U.S. government bonds were little changed. The yield on the 10-year government fell to 2.75 percent. The price of crude oil rose 56 cents to close at $99.46 a barrel. Gold gained $5.50 to settle at $1,336 an ounce.






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