US stock indexes end mostly lower after listless trading day

Wall Street capped a day of mostly sideways trading Monday with a slight gain for the benchmark S&P 500 index, as a spike in crude oil prices sent energy companies broadly higher.

Energy sector stocks climbed as the price of crude oil hit its highest level since October after the U.S. government moved to further block Iranian oil exports.

Even with the surge in energy stocks, losses in banks, real estate companies and elsewhere in the market led to a mostly lower finish for the major U.S. indexes. Smaller company stocks fell more than the rest of the market.

Homebuilders slumped following a report showing that sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell in March.

Monday’s listless day of trading was in line with a relatively calm stretch for the U.S. stock market in recent weeks. The market has been hovering near all-time highs after following up a nearly 20% plummet late last year with a nearly mirror-opposite rebound.

Investors are focused on a cavalcade of corporate earnings reports later this week and new data that will give them a read on how much U.S. economic growth slowed during the first three months of the year.

The S&P 500 wavered between gains and losses for much of the day before eking out a gain of 2.94 points, or 0.1%, to 2,907.97. The index, which had briefly been down as much as 0.3%, is now within 0.8% of its record high set in September.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.49 points, or 0.2%, to 26,511.05. The Nasdaq composite gained 17.20 points, or 0.2%, to 8,015.27. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks dropped 5.70 points, or 0.4%, to 1,560.04.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10 year Treasury rose to 2.59% from 2.55% late Thursday.

Energy futures closed broadly higher. Benchmark U.S. crude surged 2.7% to settle at $65.70 per barrel. The leap tacks further gains onto the price of oil, which has been climbing since dropping below $43 in late December. Brent crude rose 2.9% to close at $74.04 per barrel.

The Trump administration said it will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, including China and Japan, the world’s second and third largest economies.

President Donald Trump made the move with the intent of bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero. Reducing Iran’s exports could increase demand for oil from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but would heighten political tensions.

The rally in oil prices helped drive energy stocks higher, leading the other 10 sectors in the S&P 500 with a gain of 2.1%.

Marathon Oil climbed 6.6% and Exxon Mobil rose 2.2%.

Communications and technology companies also rose Monday, but those gains were outweighed by losses in banks, real estate and industrial stocks. People’s United Financial dropped 2.9%, Simon Property Group lost 2.4% and Boeing fell 1.3%.

Homebuilders declined broadly after a report showing that sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell in March after a huge gain the previous month. The National Association of Realtors said home sales slid 4.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.21 million last month. That followed an 11.2% gain in February, the largest monthly pickup in more than three years.

The March sales tally is the latest sign of a national housing market that’s struggling to rebound after slumping in the second half of last year as mortgage rates surged.

Beazer Homes USA was among the biggest decliners, sliding 3.2%.

Intuitive Surgical tumbled 7%, the largest loss in the S&P 500, after the robotic surgery system company reported weaker earnings for the latest quarter than Wall Street expected.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline gained 2.8% to $2.13 per gallon, while heating oil rose 1.6% to $2.10 per gallon. Natural gas added 1.4% to $2.52 per 1,000 cubic feet.

COMMENTS