Stock market today: Wall Street slips as tumbling crude oil prices drag down energy stocks

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street fell Wednesday after another sharp drop in the price of crude oil dragged down oil and gas stocks.

The S&P 500 fell 17.84, or 0.4%, to 4,549.34, its third consecutive loss, securing its longest losing streak since October. However, each of those declines was modest and the index remains near its best level in 20 months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 70.13, or 0.2%, to 36,054.43, and the Nasdaq composite lost 83.20, or 0.6%, to 14,146.71.

Energy stocks had by far the worst declines in the market. Halliburton sank 3.6% and Marathon Oil fell 3.5% after crude oil hit its lowest price since June.

The barrel of benchmark U.S. crude fell about 4% as expectations rise that the world has too much oil available for the demand of the global economy. It sank below $70, a drop of more than $20 since September. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 3.8% to $74.30 a barrel.

Losses in Big Tech stocks, which are among the most influential on Wall Street, also weighed on the market. Nvidia fell 2.3% and Microsoft lost 1%.

Helping limit market losses was a 1.9% gain for homebuilder Toll Brothers, which reported higher profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. He also said buyer demand has remained strong so far in the current quarter, thanks in part to slightly lower rates available on mortgages.

Mortgage rates have retreated as Treasury yields have fallen on hopes that the Federal Reserve can finally end its barrage of interest rate hikes aimed at taming high inflation. Wall Street bets The Federal Reserve's next step Their goal will be to cut rates, possibly as early as March, which would stimulate the economy and financial markets.

More reports came Wednesday that reinforced those hopes. The Federal Reserve's next interest rate meeting is in a week, and it is widely expected to leave its main interest rate at its highest level in more than two decades.

A report said private employers added fewer jobs last month than economists expected. While no one on Wall Street wants to see widespread layoffs, a cooling in the labor market could remove upward pressure on inflation.

A more comprehensive labor market report from the U.S. government is coming Friday, one that could cause big swings on Wall Street.

"What we don't know is how much markets have priced in a labor market slowdown, or how they will react if Friday's data is stronger than expected," said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investment at E-Trade. from Morgan Stanley.

A separate report on Wednesday said U.S. companies were able to increase the amount of things they produced in the summer by more than the total number of hours their employees worked. That stronger-than-expected productivity growth more than offset increases in workers' wages and could also limit inflationary pressures.

Treasury yields in the bond market were generally lower after the economic reports, with the 10-year yield falling to 4.11% from 4.17% on Tuesday. It was above 5% in October and at its highest level since 2007.

Within the S&P 500, Campbell Soup was the biggest gainer, rising 7.1% after reporting stronger-than-expected earnings for the latest quarter.

Travel-related companies were also strong, as falling crude oil prices eased some pressure on them. Carnival rose 5.9% and Royal Caribbean Line gained 3.4%.

Airlines also flew higher. Delta Air Lines rose 3.5% after it told investors it would stick to its revenue and profit guidance for the end of 2023. United Airlines rose 3.4% and Southwest Airlines gained 3%.

On the losing side of Wall Street was Brown-Forman, the company whose brands include Jack Daniel's whiskey. It fell 10.4% after reporting weaker earnings than analysts had forecast. It also cut its forecast for a measure of full-year sales growth.

Actions of British American Tobacco sank 8.4% in London after the company said it will take a non-cash hit worth about £25 billion ($31.39 billion) to offset a drop in the value of its brands of American "combustible" cigarettes. Progress is being made towards a “smokeless” world, such as that of electronic cigarettes.

Shares of Altria Group, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the United States, fell 2.8%.

Wall Street could be setting itself up for disappointment if rate cuts don't come as quickly as expected. While Federal Reserve officials have hinted that its main interest rate could be at its peak, some have said it is too early to begin considering when cuts might come.

Overseas stock markets mostly rose. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2% after a senior central bank official reiterated that the Bank of Japan will maintain its loose monetary policy until it reaches a stable level of inflation.

Gains were more modest in the rest of Asia and Europe.

AP Business writers Matt Ott and Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

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