Major U.S. stock indexes veered lower in midday trading Wednesday, giving back some of the gains from a broad rally a day earlier. Energy companies led the slide as crude oil and natural gas prices fell. Trading was lighter than usual ahead of the New Year's Day holiday.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 51 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,669 as of 1:28 p.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500 index dropped seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,070. The Nasdaq composite lost 21 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,086.
THE QUOTE: "Volumes are extremely light, both on the equities and fixed-income side," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede Trust. "So you have to take any movements that occur on a daily basis right now with a bit of a grain of salt."
ENERGY: The volatility in energy markets continued, with the benchmark U.S. crude contract losing some of its overnight gain. It was down $1.40, or 3.7 percent, to $36.47 a barrel in New York. It's down about 39.7 percent this year. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell $1.22, or 3.2 percent, to $36.57 a barrel in London. Natural gas slumped 16 cents, or 6.8 percent, to $2.21 per 1,000 cubic feet.
DRAGGING AGAIN: Energy was the biggest decliner among the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index, losing 1.1 percent. The sector is down 23 percent for the year. Several energy companies were trading lower, including Noble Energy, which fell $1.30, or 3.9 percent, to $32.10, and Southwestern Energy, which tumbled 37 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $6.39. Consol Energy shed 38 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $7.86. And natural gas company Chesapeake Energy fell 21 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $4.37.
ICAHN WINS: Bridgestone said late Tuesday that it is bowing out of the bidding war for Pep Boys, noting it won't make a counteroffer to top a roughly $1 billion bid from activist investor Carl Icahn. The news sent Pep Boys down 52 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $18.42.
BEING WOOED: Fairchild Semiconductor International rose 3.3 percent a day after the company said that it has received an unsolicited offer to buy its business by an undisclosed bidder. The roughly $2.46 billion offer tops Fairchild's existing deal with ON Semiconductor. Fairchild shares added 66 cents to $20.68.
OPRAH EFFECT: Weight Watchers International vaulted 21.6 percent after announcing an advertising campaign featuring Oprah Winfrey, who owns a 10 percent stake in the company. The stock added $4.19 to $23.56.
EUROPEAN MARKETS: Trading volumes were low on the last full day of the year ahead of the New Year's holiday. Many European markets will be open only for a half day on Dec. 31. Germany's DAX fell 1.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 lost 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.6 percent.
ASIA'S DAY: Markets in Asia were mixed. Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 percent, while South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent, while the Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent. Other regional shares were also mixed, rising in Indonesia but dropping in Taiwan and Singapore.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.31 percent. The dollar rose to 120.61 yen from 120.39 yen late Tuesday. The euro slipped to $1.0912 from $1.0939.
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