U.S. Stocks on Track to End Winning Streak

By Michael Wursthorn and Riva Gold Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks edge lower

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-- Government bond prices, utilities stocks rise

-- European, Asian shares rise slightly

Declines in shares of technology and consumer-staple stocks threatened to end major indexes' run of recent gains on Thursday.

Some investors and analysts attributed the stall in the stock market to lingering uncertainty after the Federal Reserve suggested Wednesday that it was open to the possibility of an interest-rate increase in December.

A streak of soft inflation data had made some investors skeptical the Fed would raise rates again in 2017. The fact that the central bank signaled otherwise caught some investors off guard, portfolio managers said.

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"The market is sorting through to what extent it needs to incorporate future Fed activity into its thinking," said Mike Allison, a portfolio manager with Eaton Vance. "There's some uncertainty as to the impact since interest rates have been so low for so long."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 36 points, or 0.2%, to 22376, on track for declines after nine consecutive sessions of advances. The S&P 500 slid 0.2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3%.

Shares of consumer staple companies were among the S&P 500's biggest decliners Thursday, falling 0.9% in the broad index. Beauty products maker Coty fell 3.5%, while Procter & Gamble fell 1.8%.

Technology stocks, among the best performers in the S&P 500 for 2017, also came under pressure. Shares of Apple fell 1.3%, on track for its worst two-day stretch since June, after the company on Wednesday acknowledged problems with cellular connectivity in its newest smartwatch.

Semiconductor stocks also fell, with Nivida off about 3% and Advanced Micro Devices down 1.4%.

Even with Thursday's declines, U.S. stocks remained near their all-time highs. Some investors said they are now looking ahead to any policy developments in Washington that could provide further direction for the stock market.

"I think imminently we will start to price in a tax cut or tax reform," said Eddie Perkin, chief equity investment officer at Eaton Vance. "Now is a time to be selling what has worked this year and buying what has lagged," he said, adding that he is preparing for a rotation out of technology and health-care stocks and into shares of banks and companies currently hardest hit by taxes.

Others say they will remain wary of the possibility of monetary policy hampering the stock rally.

Low interest rates have helped keep U.S. stocks climbing since the financial crisis. A Fed that raises rates faster than the economy can support could cause the stock rally to stall, investors say.

"It seems like the Fed is on a modestly earlier time frame than we had thought," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy for Glenmede Trust Co. "As with any policy tightening scenario, you introduce the risk of a misstep due to the inability to measure the impact correctly."

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2%, led by a 1.4% advance in bank stocks.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average edged up 0.2% after the Bank of Japan left its policy unchanged Thursday, sticking to its massive stimulus program.

-- Kenan Machado contributed to this article.

Write to Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com and Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 21, 2017 15:09 ET (19:09 GMT)