Caterpillar, UnitedHealth Lead DJIA Slide Thursday

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December 14, 2017: Markets opened higher again Thursday but shares trickled lower throughout the day led by a drop of around 1% in the healthcare and materials sectors. Only consumer discretionary stocks posted a decent gain although tech stocks could also close the day with a tiny improvement. WTI crude oil for January delivery settled at $57.04 a barrel, up 0.8% for the day. February gold added 0.7% on the day to settle at $1,257.10. Equities were headed for a lower close shortly before the bell as the DJIA traded down 0.13% for the day, the S&P 500 traded down 0.27%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded down 0.18%.

Bitcoin futures for January traded at $16,860, down 1.14%, on the CBOE about an hour before settlement after opening at $17,0800 this morning. Only about 1,000 contracts had been traded.

The DJIA stock posting the largest daily percentage loss ahead of the close Thursday was Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) which traded down 1.33% at $146.60. The stock’s 52-week range is $90.34 to $149.05. Volume was about about equal to the daily average of around 3.5 million shares. The company reported a year-over-year November sales increase of 26% on Wednesday morning.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) traded down 1.23% at $221.58. The stock’s 52-week range is $156.09 to $231.77. Volume was about a third below the daily average of around 3 million shares. The company had no specific news.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) traded down 0.77% at $52.49. The stock’s 52-week range is $42.80 to $54.83. Volume was about 20% below the daily average of around 17 million. The company had no specific news.

Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) traded down 0.52% at $56.13. The stock’s 52-week range is $53.63 to $66.80. Volume was about 35% below the daily average of around 11.4 million shares. The company had no specific news.

Of the Dow stocks, 9 are on track to close higher Thursday and 21 are set to close lower.