NEW YORK — U.S. stocks edged lower Thursday as investors digested mixed tech and health care earnings a day ahead of Friday’s employment report.
Energy shares dragged more than other sectors as crude prices fell. Qualcomm (QCOM) weighed the most on the S&P 500, falling 15.3 percent to $51.07 after the chipmaker forecast first-quarter profit below expectations. Biotech Celgene (CELG) fell 5.3 percent to $120.46 after its quarterly revenue missed targets.
Overall declines were limited by a rise in Facebook shares following the social media company’s strong quarterly results, and a 0.4 percent gain in the financial sector. Facebook (FB) shares jumped 4.6 percent to $108.76.
Investors were looking to Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report as they gauge whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.
“This is a big piece of data as to what the Fed is looking for,” said Scott Colyer, chief executive officer of Advisors Asset Management in Monument, Colorado. “I think everybody wants them to move or not move. The month-to-month stuff is killing everybody.”
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 4.15 points, or 0.02 percent, to 17,863.43, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) lost 2.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,099.93 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 14.74 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,127.74.
The declines paused a rally that took shape in October, the best monthly performance for major stock indexes in four years.
“We have had in the past month … a very strong market, a very sharp rebound, and I think that’s also probably causing some profit taking more than you might expect from the news that’s out there,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in New York.
Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors finished lower. The S&P energy sector fell 1 percent, with Chevron (CVX) off 2.3 percent to $94.55 and Exxon Mobil (XOM) down 1.4 percent at $84.81.
The utilities group dropped 0.8 percent and materials declined 0.5 percent.
The S&P health care sector fell 0.4 percent, weighed down by Celgene’s results.
Drug Price Probe
A U.S. Senate panel began a probe Wednesday into drug price increases, seeking documents from four drugmakers including Valeant Pharmaceuticals. U.S.-listed Valeant (VRX) shares tumbled 14.4 percent to $78.77 on Thursday.
The probe hit the entire biotech group and the broader market as well, said Larry Peruzzi, a senior equity trader at Cabrera Capital Markets in Boston.
HomeAway surged 25.3 percent to $40.15 after Expedia said it would buy the vacation rental site for $3.9 billion. Expedia (EXPE) rose 2.4 percent to $137.40.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,561 to 1,488, for a 1.05-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,497 issues fell and 1,283 advanced for a 1.17-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 7 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 94 new highs and 71 new lows.
About 7.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 7 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
What to watch Friday:
The Labor Department releases employment data for October at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for September at 3 p.m.
These selected companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B)
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