Sun, Oct 15, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Tech companies help boost US equities as insurers skid


US stocks finished mostly higher on Friday to wrap up a subdued week, with technology companies doing most of the heavy lifting. Investors were also pleased to see that shoppers spent more money last month.

Printer and PC maker HP Inc sent technology companies higher after releasing a strong profit forecast for next year.

Big names such as Intel Corp and Facebook Inc also rose.

Companies in retail, travel and entertainment moved up after a US Department of Commerce report on retail spending.

Health insurers and hospital operators skidded after US President Donald Trump said he would stop government payments to insurance companies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The S&P 500 on Friday added 2.24 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,553.17, a increase of 0.2 percent from 2,549.33 on Oct. 6.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday picked up 30.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at 22,871.72, rising 0.4 percent from a close of 22,773.67 a week earlier.

The NASDAQ composite on Friday gained 14.29 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at a record high of 6,605.80, edging up 0.2 percent from 6,590.18 on Oct. 6.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks on Friday slid 2.51 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,502.66, a drop of 0.6 percent compared with a close of 1,511.41 a week earlier.

The department said US retail sales last month grew 1.6 percent after a small decline in August. Much of the gain came from car and gasoline sales.

Sales of cars jumped as people living in the US’ southeast and Gulf Coast replaced vehicles that were destroyed by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which also caused temporary spikes in gasoline prices.

However, other types of spending grew by a solid amount as well.

HP forecast a larger annual profit than analysts expected and said it would return at least 50 percent of its free cash flow to shareholders by paying dividends or buying back stock.

HP stock gained US$1.31, or 6.4 percent, to US$21.71.

The White House late on Thursday said that it is stopping subsidy payments to insurers under the 2010 healthcare law.

Those payments help reduce copays and deductibles for people with lower incomes. The move could increase losses for insurers and reduce payments to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Adding to the uncertainty, the sign-up period for subsidized private insurance starts on Nov. 1.

Medicaid program administrator Centene Corp lost US$3.12, or 3.2 percent, to US$90.56 and insurer Anthem Inc gave up US$5.81, or 3.1 percent, to US$184.38.

Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corp dropped US$0.71, or 5.1 percent, to US$13.15 and ambulatory surgery center operator Envision Healthcare fell US$0.91, or 2.2 percent, to US$40.74.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note declined from 2.32 percent to 2.27 percent.

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