FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2014, file photo, American flags fly in front of the New York Stock Exchange. World stocks fell Tuesday, April 18, 2017, amid concerns about the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, France's upcoming presidential election, and Britain's surprise decision to hold a general election. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Sharp losses for health care stocks pull indexes down

April 18, 2017 - 2:54 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are falling Tuesday as weak first-quarter reports from Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs frustrate investors who hope that company earnings are on the rise. Health care companies are down the most, followed by banks. After the British government called for a surprise early election next month, European stock indexes are tumbling and government bond prices are rising.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,341 as of 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 124 points, or 0.6 percent, to 20,512. Goldman Sachs was responsible for half of that loss. The Nasdaq composite fell 13 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,843. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks dipped 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,359.

On Monday stocks made their biggest gain in six weeks. But over the last few weeks they've mostly drifted lower while bond yields have fallen to five-month lows.

HEALTH CARE WOES: Johnson & Johnson, the world's largest maker of health care products, is on track for its biggest loss in eight years after investors were disappointed with its sales. The company's top-selling Crohn's disease drug Remicade fell 6 percent. Meanwhile growth for many consumer health products slowed, and payers demanded bigger rebates on many products.

The Tylenol maker's stock lost $4.71 or 3.7 percent, to $121.01.

Prescription drug distributor Cardinal Health also dropped after it gave weak profit forecasts for this year and next as drug prices continue to fall. It will also pay $6.1 billion to buy a group of businesses from medical device maker Medtronic. Cardinal Health sank $9.48, or 11.6 percent, to $72.35. Competitor AmerisourceBergen and McKesson both fell 5 percent.

BANKS STRUGGLE: Goldman Sachs' revenue fell short of investor projections in the first quarter as its highly-regarded trading desks didn't perform as well as their competitors. The stock gave up $10.40, or 4.6 percent, to $215.86. It reached all-time high above $250 a share in March, but is on track for its biggest loss in almost a year.

THE QUOTE: Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones, said the weak reports from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson are having a big impact on stocks because investors expect a very strong round of company earnings reports this month. Warne said investors expect earnings for S&P 500 companies to rise around 10 percent, the biggest gain in several years.

"The reason it's so important is that the stronger growth is likely to support higher stock prices even in the absence of pro-growth policies from the Trump administration," she said.

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS: British Prime Minister Theresa May reversed her position by calling for an early general election in June. May formally triggered Britain's exit from the European Union last month and she intends to seek a stronger parliamentary mandate. The pound climbed after May's announcement on the hope that the election will result in May getting a better deal for Britain in its talks with the EU. It rose to $1.2847 from $1.2563.

European stocks fell, as the vote creates even more political uncertainty in Europe days before the first round of French presidential voting. Polls don't give a clear edge to any of the four leading candidates ahead of Sunday's vote. The top two will advance to a May 7 runoff and investors are unsettled by the chance that either of the far-left or far-right candidates could pull off a victory. Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 2.5 percent and France's CAC 40 lost 1.6 percent. In Germany the DAX shed 0.9 percent.

BONDS: Bond prices jumped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.18 percent, its lowest yield since Nov. 11. It finished at 2.25 percent Monday.

As bond yields fell, shares of companies that pay big dividends did better than the rest of the market. Household goods makers like Whole Foods Market and Molson Coors, along with utilities, real estate investment trusts and phone companies made some gains. Those stocks often rise when bond yields fall because investors view them as an alternative to bonds.

WHAT ELSE IS ON? Streaming video company Netflix sagged after it didn't gain as many subscribers in the first quarter as investors hoped. Its second-quarter profit guidance also fell short of analyst estimates. Netflix lost $4.45, or 3 percent, to $142.80.

ENERGY: U.S. crude futures lost 24 cents to $52.41 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 47 cents to $54.89 per barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.71 a gallon and heating oil dipped 1 cent to $1.62 a gallon. Natural gas lost 2 cents to $3.15 per 1,000 cubic feet.

METALS: Gold rose $2.20 to $1,294.10 an ounce. Silver skidded 24 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $18.27 an ounce. Copper fell 7 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $2.53 a pound.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 108.50 yen from 108.59 yen. The euro rose to $1.0732 from $1.0642.

ASIAN MARKETS: The benchmark Nikkei 225 index in Japan added 0.4 percent while South Korea's Kospi edged up 0.1 percent to 2,148.46. The Hang Seng of Hong Kong shed 1.4 percent.


AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at

His work can be found at

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