Energy Slide Drags Down Indexes

By Abhiram NandakumarMarketsReuters

A decline in energy stocks weighed on Wall Street on a quiet Wednesday as investors shied away from big bets after the Brussels attacks and ahead of the long Easter weekend.

Oil prices fell more than 2 percent after data showing a rise in U.S. stockpiles last week rekindled worries about a global glut.

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Gold and metals prices also fell as the dollar strengthened on hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers.

The Dow Jones industrial average held on to meager gains for the year after a five-week rally helped the market recover from a steep selloff at the start of 2016. The S&P 500 flip-flopped between gains and losses for the year.

"We don't like to have big positions over long weekends, and we'll probably work on cleaning those up over the next few days so we can watch basketball in peace," said Doug Burtnick, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management.

Commodity prices, strength in the dollar and uncertainty about interest rates were having a bigger impact on the market on a day with relatively few news events, he added.

At 12:27 p.m. ET (1627 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 28.93 points, or 0.16 percent, at 17,553.64, the S&P 500 was down 7.13 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,042.67 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 35.22 points, or 0.73 percent, at 4,786.44.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the 1.5 percent fall in the energy sector. Chevron's 2 percent fall weighed the most on the sector.

Nike shares were down 3.5 percent at $62.66 after the world's largest footwear maker reported quarterly revenue below estimates. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow.

Gilead Sciences was down 3.3 percent at $90.71 after a federal jury upheld the validity of two Merck patents in a high-profile dispute over Gilead's blockbuster cure for hepatitis C. Merck was up 0.2 percent.

Gilead was the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals was down 6.4 percent at $81.23 after Goldman Sachs cuts its price target on the stock.

Yum Brands was up 2 percent at $80.53 after the Wall Street Journal reported that the fast-food chains owner was in talks with KKR about a possible sale of a 19.9 percent stake in its China business.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,006 to 875. On the Nasdaq, 2,006 issues fell and 670 rose.

The S&P 500 index showed 14 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 16 new highs and 29 new lows. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr and Don Sebastian)