U.S. Stocks Edge Lower

By Akane Otani Features Dow Jones Newswires

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched lower Monday, weighed down by declines in shares of energy and insurance companies.

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The blue-chip index wobbled in a narrow range for much of the session, extending a recent pattern of quiet trading.

Investors and analysts have attributed the lull to the scarcity of major economic data and the winding down of the second-quarter earnings season.

Activity is expected to pick up in the coming days, as investors look toward the latest estimates for the second-quarter gross domestic product, personal-consumption expenditures and monthly employment.

So far this year, the data have largely suggested the global economy is on steady footing, something that should help stocks keep climbing as corporate profits grow, investors say.

"It feels like we're in a sweet spot for financial assets, where you have a synchronized global expansion while inflation remains low," said David Donabedian, chief investment officer at CIBC Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management. "There's a lot of focus on Washington, but we shouldn't forget that the strong economic backdrop is always the single most important backdrop for equity markets."

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The Dow industrials fell 5.27 points, or less than 0.1%, to 21808.40 on Monday, led by a decline in insurer Travelers Companies. Travelers fell $3.24, or 2.6%, to $123.23 amid a broad decline in shares of property insurance companies following Tropical Storm Harvey.

The S&P 500 rose 1.19 point, or less than 0.1%, to 2444.24 and the Nasdaq Composite added 17.37 points, or 0.3%, to 6283.02.

Energy stocks in the S&P 500 fell with oil prices as investors struggled to gauge the fallout from the storm, which has disrupted operations at major refiners in Texas.

The S&P 500 energy sector fell 0.5%. Chesapeake Energy declined 14 cents, or 3.7%, to 3.65, Range Resources shed 58 cents, or 3.2%, to 17.59 and Helmerich & Payne lost 1.29, or 2.9%, to 43.49. The sector is on course for its worst month since at least 2015, even after a number of oil companies reported stabilizing earnings.

Commodities prices swung as analysts warned it would take time to measure the full impact of Harvey's damage.

Gasoline futures surged, with contracts for September delivery rising 2.7% to $1.7123 a gallon, on the potential for a shortage in gasoline supply. Reduced refining capacity is also expected to hit U.S. crude demand. U.S. crude for October delivery fell 2.7% to $46.57 a barrel, its lowest settlement since July 24.

Elsewhere, Gilead Sciences shares rose 90 cents, or 1.2%, to 74.69 after the biotechnology company said it agreed to pay about $11 billion to acquire Kite Pharma.

Shares of health-care companies in the S&P 500 jumped 0.6%, leading advances among the broad index's 11 sectors.

The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.5%, logging its sixth decline in eight trading sessions. Markets in the U.K. were closed in observance of a public holiday.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average ended down less than 0.1%, with shares of exporters weighed down by the stronger yen. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9%, driven by advances in bank stocks.

Write to Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 28, 2017 17:25 ET (21:25 GMT)