US stocks head mostly lower as early gains fade

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The major US stock indexes closed mostly lower Thursday after a midday gain faded by late afternoon.

Retailers, restaurant chains and other consumer-focused companies accounted for much of the market’s pullback.

The losses outweighed solid gains by financial stocks, which got a boost as climbing bond yields set the stage for higher interest rates on mortgages and other loans.

Even though January was the best month for the stock market since March 2016, the swift rise in the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is a benchmark for interest rates, has stoked investor worries that higher rates could dampen company earnings and hurt equity prices.

“Good earnings alone or maybe great earnings alone won’t move the stock market up,” said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.

“We got to have a pause in the rate of increase in interest rates for the uptrend to resume.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.83 points, or 0.1%, to 2,821.98. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 37.32 points, or 0.1%, to 26,186.71. The Nasdaq composite lost 25.62 points, or 0.3%, to 7,385.86. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4.88 points, or 0.3%, to 1,579.87.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 2.79% from 2.71% late Wednesday.

The prospect for stronger economic growth, both in the US and abroad, has helped drive bond yields higher in recent months.

This week yields have hovered at the highest level since April 2014.

Rising yields make bonds more appealing to investors seeking income, but they can also lead to higher financing costs for companies, homebuyers and other borrowers.

Those higher borrowing costs can also help lift profits for banks, credit card issuers and other types of lenders. That gave a boost to financial stocks Thursday. Lincoln National climbed 3.11 dollars, or 3.8%, to 85.91 dollars.

Investors continued to sift through a raft of corporate earnings reports Thursday.

About a third of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported results so far this earnings season, and some 65% of those have delivered both earnings and revenue that exceeded financial analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“From an earnings standpoint, the season has been really good and really strong,” said David Lyon, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

“While the numbers look good, there have been a couple of weak spots, but overall, when we look back, it’s going to be a really strong earnings season.”

Several companies rose after posting strong quarterly results or outlooks.

Qorvo led all gainers in the S&P 500, jumping 11.57 dollars, or 16.1%, to 83.34 dollars.

Facebook rose 3.3% a day after the social media company posted strong quarter results. The stock added 6.20 dollars to 193.09 dollars.

Shares in eBay vaulted 13.8% after the e-commerce company gave a strong forecast for the current quarter. The stock picked up 5.61 dollars to 46.19 dollars.

Companies that reported disappointing results weighed on the market.

United Parcel Service slumped 6.1% after the packaged delivery company said that higher costs affected its business in the fourth quarter. The stock lost 7.81 dollars to 119.51 dollars.

PayPal slid 8.1% after eBay said it would move to a different payment processor. PayPal shares tumbled more than any other company in the S&P 500, shedding 6.92 dollars to 78.40 dollars.

Hershey’s latest quarterly results also fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. Shares in the maker of KitKat chocolate bars and Twizzlers candy fell 6.56 dollars, or 5.9%, to 103.77 dollars.

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