US stocks mostly slip away from their latest record highs

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, the American flag flies above the Wall Street entrance to the New York Stock Exchange. Global stocks mostly rose Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, after Wall Street hit new highs and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed above the 30,000 level for the first time in over 10 years. Trading was slowing, however, ahead of the two-day U.S. break for the Thanksgiving holiday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks mostly slipped away from their latest record highs Wednesday as the two former halves of Hewlett-Packard both tumbled, while falling interest rates helped phone companies but hurt banks.

The price of oil jumped on reports OPEC and a group of other countries might extend the cuts in production they made at the start of this year. That took energy companies higher. Hewlett Packard Enterprise sank after it said CEO Meg Whitman will retire, while printer and PC maker HP lost ground after its latest quarterly report.

Interest rates fell after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest meeting, which ended Nov. 1. While most officials were comfortable raising interest rates soon, as investors think they will do in December, a few Fed leaders think rates should stay where they are until there is more evidence inflation is rising.

The Fed has suggested it wants to raise rates three more times next year, but many are skeptical that it will.

"The market certainly doesn't believe it, and hasn't believed it all along," says Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. He said investors may change their minds as economic reports roll in over the next few weeks, and they may get nervous if they think the Fed will move faster.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index dipped 1.95 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,597.08. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 64.65 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 23,526.18. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.88 points, or 0.1 per cent, to a record 6,867.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 2.13 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 1,516.76.

All four indexes closed at record highs Tuesday, and on Wednesday most of the companies on the New York Stock Exchange finished higher.

U.S. markets will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will reopen Friday but will close at 1 p.m. ET.

The two main companies that once comprised Hewlett-Packard took the largest losses in the S&P 500. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which sells data-centre hardware and tech gear, dropped after it announced company President Antonio Neri will replace Whitman as CEO Feb 1. Whitman became CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2011 and oversaw its split in 2015. HPE also reported mixed fourth-quarter results.

Analysts said they were surprised by the timing because Whitman suggested last month that she wasn't leaving soon. Like several other analysts, Steven Milunovich of UBS said Neri is a good choice, but that Whitman will be hard to replace.

"Whitman's star power could be missed when competing with the likes of Michael Dell, Chuck Robbins, and Ginni Rometty for large enterprise deals," he wrote, referring to the CEOs of Dell, Cisco Systems and IBM.

HP Enterprise fell $1.02, or 7.2 per cent, to $13.10. Meanwhile HP Inc., which sells PCs and printers, had a solid quarter but couldn't sustain the gains it's made this year. The stock lost $1.12, or 5 per cent, to $21.34. It's up 44 per cent in 2017.

Bond prices started the day with small gains, which sent yields lower. Yields moved lower still as investors looked over the Federal Reserve minutes. The Fed has already raised interest rates twice this year in spite of low inflation, and Wren, of Wells Fargo, said investors may get jumpy as they examine economic data in the next few weeks and try to figure out how fast the Fed will move next year.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.32 per cent from 2.36 per cent. That sent banks lower because lower yields translate to smaller profits on loans. Cincinnati Financial fell 80 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $72.66. Phone companies, which pay big dividends similar to bonds, climbed higher. Verizon Communications rose 92 cents, or 2 per cent, to $47.10.

The dollar also weakened as investors expected lower interest rates. It sank to 111.17 yen from 112.44 yen. The euro rose to $1.1822 from $1.1742.

U.S. crude rose $1.19, or 2.1 per cent, to $58.02 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 75 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $63.32 a barrel in London. Both oil benchmarks are at two-year highs.

Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter in the world, wants the OPEC cartel to extend this year's cut in oil production for another nine months. The nations of OPEC, as well as other major oil producers including Russia, will meet in Vienna next week to discuss their goals.

Farm equipment maker Deere posted a bigger profit and better sales than analysts expected, and it also gave surprisingly strong forecasts for its new fiscal year. The stock climbed $6.02, or 4.3 per cent, to $145.25.

Gold added $10.50 to $1,292.20 an ounce. Silver rose 15 cents to $17.11 an ounce. Copper rose 1 cent to $3.14 a pound.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to $1.77 a gallon. Heating oil remained at $1.93 a gallon. Natural gas skidded 5 cents to $2.97 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Germany's DAX lost 1.2 per cent while the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.1 per cent and France's CAC 40 slipped 0.2 per cent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.5 per cent and the Hang Seng index of Hong Kong advanced 0.6 per cent. The Kospi in South Korea rose 0.4 per cent.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jayt


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