US stock indexes edge higher after a big gain
28 November 2018 – Stocks wobbled last night as large high-dividend stocks rose and smaller companies sank. Major indexes were coming off big gains the day before.
Big health care companies including Johnson & Johnson rallied, as did telecommunications and household goods makers. Steel and other materials makers skidded, and a steep loss for United Technologies pulled defense contractors lower.
Technology companies rose even though President Donald Trump said he expects more tariffs on goods imported from China, some of which would hit products like computers and smartphones. Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this week.
“It is not unexpected that the administration would ramp up their threats moving into that meeting,” said Tracie McMillion, head of global asset allocation for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. She said trading will probably be volatile for the rest of the week, but stocks are likely to rise if the two sides are able to strike even a very general agreement.
The S&P 500 index rose 8.72 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,682.17. The index jumped 1.6 percent Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 108.49 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,748.73. The Nasdaq composite inched up 0.85 points to 7,082.80 after surging 2.1 percent a day earlier.
With two months of volatility on investors’ minds and more likely to come, Wall Street gravitated toward safer, high-dividend communications, utility and consumer goods companies. Verizon gained 2.5 percent to $60.65, Public Service Enterprise Group climbed 1.5 percent to $54.29 and cigarette maker Altria Group rose 1.1 percent to $53.79 as tobacco companies recovered some of their recent losses.
Smaller companies, especially in heavy industry and retail, took steeper losses. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks slid 13.10 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,492.86.
Those companies made big gains at the end of 2017, when Republicans passed a corporate tax cut. The Russell 2000 set a record high in late August but is now down 2.8 percent for the year.
“Later in the (economic) cycle, the cost of borrowing impacts small businesses,” said McMillion. “Not being able to hire the labor that they need to continue to grow could be a factor in that as well.”
United Technologies said it will split into three companies now that it has finished its purchase of aviation electronics maker Rockwell Collins. The company’s aerospace and defense industry business will keep the United Technologies name, while its Otis elevator business and Carrier air conditioner and building systems unit will become separate companies.
Investors weren’t impressed with the company’s forecasts for Rockwell Collins. United Technologies also said it doesn’t expect to buy back any more of its stock during the breakup, which could take up to two years. The stock fell 4.1 percent to $122.68.
Other defense companies also dipped. Northrop Grumman fell 2.1 percent to $260.34 and Raytheon gave up 1.7 percent to $171.67.
Spirit Airlines surged 15.3 percent to $58.76 after it forecast a big jump in revenue in the fourth quarter. Investors were hopeful that other airlines might see similar gains. Delta climbed 2.8 percent to $58.31 and United Continental picked up 1.8 percent to $93.38.