American Express, Wal-Mart Weigh on DJIA Thursday

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October 6, 2016: Markets opened slightly lower Thursday and tracked close to the break-even line for much of the day. Tomorrow’s report on non-farm payrolls for September is the week’s big data point and economists are looking for a better number than August’s weakish showing. Basic materials and tech were the day’s leading sectors, with healthcare bringing up the rear. WTI crude oil for November delivery settled at $50.44 a barrel, up 1.2% for the day, and the first settlement above the $50 mark in four months. December gold closed down 1.2% on the day to settle at $1,2253.00. Equities were headed for a mixed close shortly before the bell as the DJIA traded down by 0.06% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.04%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded down 0.16%. Shares traded very close to the break-even line shortly before the bell, so the final tally may be different from the results we note here.

The DJIA stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Thursday was American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) which traded down 3.86% at $61.88. The stock’s 52-week range is $50.27 to $77.82. Trading volume was about 60% above the daily average of around 4 million. The financial services company’s stock was downgraded at Nomura this morning.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) traded down 3.35% at $69.26. The stock’s 52-week range is $56.30 to $75.19. Volume was about more than double the daily average of around 8.1 million shares. The mega-retailer’s stock got beaten up a bit after an investor day presentation that indicated lower earnings ahead.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) traded down 0.96% at $136.28. The stock’s 52-week range is $107.51 to $144.48. Volume was about 10% above the daily average of around 3 million shares. The big insurance company was hit with a class action lawsuit in Minnesota.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) traded down 0.94% at $33.58. The stock’s 52-week range is $28.25 to $37.39. Volume was about 20% below the daily average of around 19 million shares. The company said that it plans to sell its infusion systems business for $1 billion and leave its midtown headquarters for another, as-yet unspecified location in Manhattan.

Of the 30 Dow index stocks 14 are on track to close higher Wednesday and 16 are  set to close lower.