Apple, UnitedHealth Weigh on DJIA Friday

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September 22, 2017: Markets opened lower Friday and never strayed far from the break-even line. The third quarter ends next Friday and maybe traders just want to lie low for awhile and see what the next earnings season brings. Today’s best performing sector was telecom followed (distantly) by tech stocks. Laggards were real estate and utilities. WTI crude oil for November delivery settled at $50.66 a barrel, up 0.2% on the day and up 0.4% for the week (up 1.5% on the front month contract that changed from October to November on Thursday). December gold added 0.2% to settle at $1,297.50. Equities were headed for a narrowly mixed close shortly before the bell as the DJIA traded down 0.04% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.08%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded up 0.09%.

The DJIA stock posting the largest daily percentage loss ahead of the close Friday was Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) which traded down 1.29% at $151.41. The stock’s 52-week range is $104.08 to $164.94. Volume was about 50% above the daily average of around 27 million shares. The company had no specific news, but reports of a lukewarm reception for the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have weighed on the stock.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) traded down 1.25% at $192.77. The stock’s 52-week range is $133.03 to $200.76. Volume was about 40% below the daily average of around 2.6 million. The company had no specific news, but the increasingly likely defeat of another ACA repeal effort lifted healthcare stocks late in the day.

Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) traded down 0.67% at $65.15. The stock’s 52-week range is $58.29 to $66.80. Volume was about 35% below the daily average of around 8 million shares. The company received approval for its Keytruda drug late in the day, but that did not seem to add anything to the stock price.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) traded down 0.72% at $79.43. The stock’s 52-week range is $65.28 to $81.99. Volume was about half the daily average of around 8 million shares. The company said it plans to begin testing a home delivery service right to a customer’s refrigerator.

Of the Dow stocks, 14 are on track to close higher Friday and 16 are set to close lower.