Energy leads US stocks indexes to a mostly higher finish

NEW YORK (AP) — A listless day on Wall Street finished with U.S. stocks eking out small gains Friday, as strength in energy, phone and industrial companies offset losses elsewhere.

Some health insurers bounced back after Sen. John McCain said he wouldn’t support the latest Republican effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

Real estate and utilities companies were among the biggest decliners. A new round of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea helped send bond yields lower, which weighed on banks and other financial stocks. The sector notched daily gains earlier in the week.

“Geopolitical tensions coming out of North Korea caused a flight to quality, which kind of put the brakes on the momentum in financials,” said David Schiegoleit, managing director of investments at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. “Today equity markets are simply moving sideways and probably digesting that.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.62 points, or 0.06 percent, to 2,502.22. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 9.64 points, or 0.04 percent, to 22,349.59. The average was held back by a loss in Apple, which slid $1.50, or 1 percent, to $151.89.

The Nasdaq composite added 4.23 points, or 0.07 percent, to 6,426.92.

Small-company stocks did better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 gained 6.60 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,450.78, a fraction of a point above its previous record high.

The Russell 2000 also notched the biggest weekly gain, 1.3 percent. The S&P 500 and Dow posted small gains, while the Nasdaq closed out the week with a modest loss.

The stock indexes spent much of the day drifting between small gains and losses as investors weighed the latest developments in the political brinkmanship between the U.S. and North Korea.

Tensions between the two nations ratcheted up after President Donald Trump authorized stiffer sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons advances, drawing a furious response from Pyongyang. Trump expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un retaliated by calling Trump “deranged” and saying he’ll “pay dearly” for his threats.

The heightened tensions drove up bond prices, which sent yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 2.25 percent from 2.28 percent late Thursday.

That weighed on bank shares, including Fifth Third Bancorp, which declined 23 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $27.31. Lower bond yields mean banks have to charge lower interest rates on long-term loans like mortgages.

Several health care companies recovered some of the ground they lost earlier as McCain said he wouldn’t support the latest Republican health care bill, dealing what could be a fatal blow to the last-gasp GOP measure in a Senate showdown expected next week.

Centene, which administers Medicaid programs and sells health plans to ACA exchanges, rose $1.48, or 1.6 percent, to $92.22. Molina Healthcare gained $2.81, or 4.5 percent, to $65.32.

Energy stocks rose as crude oil prices finished higher. Hess added 87 cents, or 2 percent, to $44.50.