Health care rises as US indexes ring in new year with gains

Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The stock market opened the year on a strong note, led by big gains in banks and energy companies. (AP Photo/Richard Drew))

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are on track to break a three-day losing streak as health care companies move higher on the first trading day in 2017. Health stocks sank last year even as the rest of the market rose. Energy companies are also rising. While stock indexes are broadly higher, they’ve surrendered most of an earlier gain.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 44 points, or 0.2 percent, to 19,806 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The blue-chip index rose as much as 175 points in the first hour of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,248. The Nasdaq composite picked up 23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,406. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks small-company stocks, added 5 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,361. The Russell rose almost 20 percent last year and did far better than indexes focused on larger companies.

The Dow lagged behind the S&P 500 and Nasdaq in part because of losses for McDonald’s and Travelers, the insurance company.

ON THE MEND: Health care stocks made some of the biggest gains. Merck & Co. rose more than any other Dow stock as it gained $1.22, or 2.1 percent, to $60.09. Biotech giant Amgen picked up $4.29, or 2.9 percent, to $150.50 and prescription drug distributor McKesson gained $8.13, or 5.6 percent, to $148.58. The S&P 500’s health care index fell 4 percent last year. It was the only S&P 500 sector that traded lower as the S&P 500 itself rose 9.5 percent for the year.

THE QUOTE: Investors have been avoiding drug company stocks because they’re worried the government will intervene to reduce prices. But Karyn Cavanaugh of Voya Investment Strategies said the stocks are appealing because they’ve been reporting better growth than most other industries.

“If you look at earnings and revenues, they’re one of the leaders,” she said.

COPY THAT: Xerox surged 97 cents, or 16.9 percent, to $6.72 after it split itself in two, a move the company announced almost a year ago. The original Xerox kept its printer and copier business. The second company will focus on business process outsourcing, providing payment processing and other services. Xerox will receive $1.8 billion in cash.

The new company, Conduent, now trades under the ticker symbol “CNDT.” That stock lost 95 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $13.95.

ENERGY: Oil prices jumped in early trading but turned around to finish lower. U.S. crude gave up $1.39, or 2.6 percent, to $52.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, skidded $1.35, or 2.4 percent, to $55.47 a barrel in London.

Despite that slump, energy companies traded higher. But natural gas companies dropped as natural gas futures dropped 40 cents, or 10.7 percent, to $3.33 per 1,000 cubic feet. Southwestern Energy lost 87 cents, or 8 percent, to $9.96 and Cabot Oil & Gas gave up $1.06, or 4.6 percent, to $22.30.

MANUFACTURING ACTION: The manufacturing sector continued its recovery and ended 2016 on a strong note. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 54.7 in December, its highest reading of the year. That was the fourth straight month of expansion and the ninth out of the last 10. The result was a bit stronger than analysts expected.

MISSING 2016: Graphics processor maker Nvidia couldn’t break out of a recent slump. The stock more than tripled in value last year, but hit a wall in the final days of trading. The stock slid $4.95, or 4.6 percent, to $101.79. It’s down 13 percent since Dec. 27, when it closed at an all-time high.

BONDS: Bond prices fell slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.45 percent from 2.43 percent late Friday. Yields made a much bigger move earlier in the day. Utility companies fell Tuesday, as did real estate investment trusts and companies that make and sell household goods. Those stocks are often compared to bonds because they pay large dividends, but the jump in yields Tuesday encouraged investors to look elsewhere.

METALS: The price of gold jumped $10.30 to $1,162 an ounce. Silver climbed 42 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $16.41 an ounce. Copper slipped 2 cents to $2.49 a pound.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $1.62 a gallon. Heating oil lost 5 cents, or 3 percent, to $1.68 a gallon.

CURRENCIES: The dollar jumped to 117.68 yen from 116.78 yen. The euro slumped to $1.0410 from $1.0531.

OVERSEAS: The FTSE 100 index in Britain rose 0.5 percent to another all-time high. The French CAC 40 added 0.3 percent. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.7 percent and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.9 percent. Tokyo’s stock market remained closed for the New Year’s holiday.

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