US stocks move lower in afternoon trading; oil surges

focused companies led a modest slide in U.S. stocks Thursday afternoon. Oil production and drilling companies bucked the trend, getting a lift from a sharp increase in crude oil prices. Trading got off to a downbeat start as investors reacted to a decision by the European Central Bank to leave its...

 
              FILE - This Monday, July 6, 2015, file photo shows a sign for Wall Street carved into the side of a building in New York. European stock markets dipped Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, while the euro struck two-week highs against the dollar after the European Central Bank left its key interest rates unchanged and decided against extending the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

focused companies led a modest slide in U.S. stocks Thursday afternoon. Oil production and drilling companies bucked the trend, getting a lift from a sharp increase in crude oil prices. Trading got off to a downbeat start as investors reacted to a decision by the European Central Bank to leave its key interest rates unchanged and hold off on extending a stimulus program.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average was down 59 points, or 0.3 percent, at 18,466 as of 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,179. The Nasdaq composite index lost 30 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,253. The tech-heavy index set all-time highs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

NO ACTION: The European Central Bank decided to leave its key interest rates unchanged. It also said it would not extend the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program. At a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi seemed relatively confident about the economy and less inclined to hint at more stimulus than some analysts had expected.

THE QUOTE: "If the ECB saw the world going to hell in a hand basket, they would have made a move (for additional stimulus)," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. "But they don't."

BAD OUTLOOK: Tractor Supply slumped 16.8 percent after the farm equipment retailer said its business is being hurt by cuts in oil, gas and coal production, declining outlays by farmers and weak spending on wood stoves and heating fuel for this fall and winter. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 index, shedding $14.02 to $69.51.

ROUGH REPORT: Pier 1 Imports tumbled 14.8 percent after the home decor retailer gave weak quarterly guidance and said its president and CEO will be leaving the company at the end of the year by mutual agreement with the board. The stock slid 71 cents to $4.09.

DEAL-MAKING: Investors got a dash of tech sector deal news. Hewlett Packard Enterprise agreed to spin off part of its business software unit to Micro Focus in a deal valued at $8.8 billion. The pact calls for HP Enterprise to remain majority owner of the new company. Separately, Intel said it will spin its cybersecurity business into a new company called McAfee for $3.1 billion in cash. Private equity firm TPG will invest $1.1 billion in the new company and own a majority stake. Shares in HP Enterprise slid 69 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $21.40, while Intel dipped 6 cents to $36.40.

JACKED: Apple slid 3.1 percent a day after the consumer electronics giant introduced its newest slate of products, including a new iPhone that doesn't come with an analog headphone jack. The stock shed $2.81 to $105.31.

HANDSOME RESULTS: Tailored Brands surged 21.4 percent after the menswear retailer reported solid quarterly results and maintained its forecasts for the year. The stock added $3.04 to $17.27.

ENERGY: Crude oil prices were moving higher following a report indicating a big drop in fuel stockpiles last week. Benchmark U.S. crude was up $1.67, or 3.6 percent, to $47.15 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up $1.77, or 3.7 percent, to $49.75 in London.

RIDING OIL: Several oil drilling and production companies were up on the latest oil stockpiles figures, pushing the S&P 500's energy sector 1.6 percent higher. The sector is up 17.3 percent this year. Chesapeake Energy rose 81 cents, or 12 percent, to $7.63, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. Diamond Offshore Drilling gained $1.34, or 8.4 percent, to $17.31. Murphy Oil climbed $1.98, or 7.1 percent, to $29.83.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: News of the ECB's decisions weighed on most of major stock indexes in Europe. Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent, while France's CAC-40 declined 0.3 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.2 percent. Earlier, a report showing that imports rose in China last month for the first time since late 2014, while a contraction in exports narrowed, helped lift some markets in Asia. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.8 percent. Seoul's Kospi added 0.1 percent, while India's Sensex rose 0.3 percent to 29,006.18. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent.

METALS: Among metals, gold slid $7.60 to $1,341.60 an ounce, while silver fell 17 cents to $19.68 an ounce. Copper held steady at $2.10 a pound.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.61 percent from 1.54 percent late Wednesday. In currency markets, the dollar strengthened to 102.43 yen from 101.75 on Wednesday. The euro climbed to $1.1251 from $1.1245.

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