FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2019, file photo traders Ashley Lara and John Santiago confer as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Stocks erase early losses and are mixed in midday trading

October 16, 2019 - 12:04 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks erased an early loss and were little changed in midday trading Wednesday.

A potential settlement in the opioid epidemic involving some of the nation's largest drug distributors lifted the health care sector.

Homebuilders benefited from a surprisingly good survey on sales. Technology stocks were the biggest losers.

General Motors rose 2.2% after the auto company and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative deal.

The stock market was down early following a report from the Commerce Department that retail sales dropped in September by the largest amount in seven months, raising concerns that consumer spending is being hurt by rising trade tensions.

The mixed bag of earnings and economic data follows a rally on Tuesday that was driven by surprisingly good earnings and hopeful forecasts.

Investors are waiting on several other important corporate earnings reports Wednesday. Railroad operator CSX, Netflix and IBM will all report results later in the day.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index was little changed as of noon Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 10 points to 27,036. The Nasdaq fell 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks held up well as the broader market slid. It gained 0.3%.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.75% from 1.77% late Tuesday.

EARNINGS REWARDED: Bank of America rose 2.4% after beating Wall Street's third-quarter profit forecasts. The bank was able to grow loans quite noticeably in the quarter, despite worries about a slowdown in borrowing from businesses and consumers.

United Airlines rose 2.4% following its report late Tuesday that cheaper jet fuel and slightly higher fares drove a surge in profit that beat analyst's forecasts. The company also raised its own profit forecast for the year.

OPIOID SETTLEMENT: A potential settlement deal in the opioid epidemic lifted stocks for several drug distributors. McKesson rose 5.6%, AmerisourceBergen rose 4.8% and Cardinal Health rose 3.5%.

The companies are defendants in the first federal trial over the epidemic. They are discussing a deal that would have them collectively pay $18 billion over 18 years.

OVERSEAS: Stocks in Europe edged lower. The European Commission's statistics agency revised inflation figures for September in the 19 nations using the euro to its lowest rate in nearly three years. Low inflation can be a sign of economic weakness and has been a concern the European Central Bank.

Britain's pending Oct. 31 exit from the European Union continues to loom over broader economic growth concerns. European Union and British negotiators failed to reach a breakthrough during a frantic all-night session and will continue seeking a compromise on the eve of Thursday's crucial European Union summit.

Markets in Asia moved higher.

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