Stocks Are Mixed as Storm Affects Insurers, Energy Companies

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.30, or 2.7 percent, to $46.57 a barrel in New York

U.S. stocks finished little changed on Monday as investors focused on the effects of Tropical Storm Harvey. Insurance companies and oil drillers stumbled while refineries rose along with gasoline prices.

With August coming to a close, Monday was one of the quietest days of the year on Wall Street. Biotech drug companies rose after hepatitis C and HIV drug maker Gilead Sciences agreed to buy cancer drug maker Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion. Travel booking website Expedia tumbled as investors expected the company's CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, to leave the company to become CEO of ride-sharing company Uber.

Lacking other major corporate or economic news, investors mostly focused on Harvey, which continues to hit parts of the Gulf Coast with historically heavy rains. Large parts of the energy and petrochemical industries are based there and companies with a lot of stores in the area stand to lose business. While gas price spikes will be temporary, other effects of the storm will last for years.

"There will be ripple effects that everyone is going to feel," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for BMO Capital Markets. He said that could include higher insurance premiums, as the storm is likely to cause tens of billions of dollars in flood damage. Ablin added that the storm might affect interest rates as well, as the Federal Reserve might hesitate to raise interest rates if they think the storm will slow the economy significantly.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 1.19 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,444.24. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 5.27 points to 21,808.40. The Nasdaq composite rose 17.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,283.02. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 4.78 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,382.23. Most of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange fell.

The tropical storm, which made landfall in Texas Friday, is expected to continue for days, and the National Weather Service says some parts of Houston and its suburbs could get as much as 50 inches of rain. The weather shut down much of Texas' oil and gas industry, and S&P Global analysts said about 2.2 million barrels per day of refining capacity was down or being shut down by Sunday.

Helmerich & Payne, an oil and gas well drilling contractor, gave up $1.29, or 2.9 percent, to $43.49.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.30, or 2.7 percent, to $46.57 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 52 cents, or 1 percent, to $51.89 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline futures rose 5 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $1.71 a gallon, and refining companies climbed, as they stand to benefit from higher gas prices. Marathon Petroleum advanced 80 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $52.52.

Insurance companies declined as investors worried that flooding from Harvey will lead to big losses. Travelers slumped $3.24, or 2.6 percent, to $123.23 and Progressive shed $1.09, or 2.3 percent, to $47.31.

Shoe retailer DSW lost $1.01, or 5 percent, to $19.04. Sporting goods company Finish Line declined 25 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $10.42 and Boot Barn retreated 24 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $8.33. Citi Investment Research analyst Kate McShane noted that all three companies have large numbers of stores in Texas. Some companies that may play a role in cleanup efforts after the storm traded higher. Those included environmental services company Clean Harbors, which rose $1.59, or 3.1 percent, to $52.98.

Gilead Sciences agreed to buy Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion, or $180 a share. Kite is studying treatments that can reprogram a patient's immune cells to attack tumors, and it hopes to win approval this year for a blood cancer treatment. Kite is one of several companies researching CAR-T therapies. Kite Pharma stock jumped $38.95, or 28 percent, to $178.05 and Gilead gained 90 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $74.69.

Gold rose $17.40, or 1.3 percent, to $1,315.30 an ounce, its highest price in 11 months. Silver gained 39 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $17.44 an ounce. Copper picked up 3 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.06 a pound.

In other energy trading, heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas added 3 cents to $2.93 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The euro rose to $1.1979 from $1.1888, and it is now at its highest level since the beginning of 2015. The European currency has been climbing recently because investors feel the European Central Bank isn't going to take steps to keep the euro from getting stronger. That would make exports from European countries more expensive in other markets.

The dollar inched down to 109.09 yen from 109.24 yen late Friday.

Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.16 percent from 2.17 percent.

The CAC 40 in France fell 0.5 percent and the DAX in Germany sank 0.4 percent. British markets were closed for a public holiday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index took a negligible loss and the South Korean Kospi lost 0.4 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose less than 0.1 percent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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