U.S. Stocks Steady as Health-Care Gains Offset Energy Losses

By Riva Gold and Akane OtaniFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

U.S. stock indexes steadied Wednesday as a rise in the share of health-care companies helped offset losses in the energy sector.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 35 points, or 0.2%, to 21434. The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.5%.

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Major indexes wobbled Tuesday after oil prices slid to their lowest level since September, dragging down shares of energy companies and renewing concerns among some analysts of a more severe pullback in commodity prices.

Still, many investors and analysts say they remain cautiously optimistic on the outlook for the U.S. stock market. Strong earnings should keep supporting stock indexes, even if oil prices continue to wobble, said Patrick Spencer, vice chairman of equities at Robert W. Baird & Co.

"Positive earnings revisions and a weaker dollar are quite a powerful springboard for the U.S.," Mr. Spencer said.

U.S. crude oil fluctuated between gains and losses in choppy trading, and was recently down 0.2% at $43.44 a barrel after returning to bear-market territory Tuesday. Energy shares in the S&P 500, the worst-performing sector in the broad index in 2017, fell 0.8%, deepening their declines for the year.

Shares of health-care companies in the S&P 500 rose 0.8%, with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals -- the second-biggest gainer in the S&P 500 on Tuesday -- posting among the biggest advances Wednesday.

Government bonds edged lower, with the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rising to 2.167%, according to Tradeweb, from 2.153% Tuesday. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.1%, but moved off its worst levels of the day, when falling oil prices stoked doubts about inflation and sent government bond yields lower.

"Oil, which can be a big inflation contributor, is down around 20% year to date," said Nancy Curtin, chief investment officer at Close Brothers Asset Management. "Despite improvements in the growth picture, there seems to be very little inflation," she said.

Stocks across the Asia-Pacific region mostly fell amid losses in energy companies and banks, with the Nikkei Stock Average dropping 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index falling 0.6%.

Mainland China markets inched higher, however, after MSCI Inc. said it would include China A-shares in its emerging-markets index, meaning funds that track it will automatically allocate money into China. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5%.

"For global investors, while the inclusion will not trigger an immediate and wholesale change in their asset allocation, it will put Chinese equities on the map," Aidan Yao, economist at AXA Investment Managers, said in a note.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 21, 2017 11:56 ET (15:56 GMT)