The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Monday’s trading session little changed with energy and bank shares lower as Tropical Storm Harvey crippled the energy hub in Texas, while tech and healthcare was a light stimulus to the Nasdaq.
Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to strike the southern portion of the United States in more than 50 years when it came ashore on Friday, dumped more rain on Houston on Monday, and the flooding could worsen as engineers release water from overflowing reservoirs to keep it from jumping dams and surging uncontrollably.
Market analysts said despite the human drama and infrastructure devastation, the market could take solace in the fact that a massive rebuilding effort would mostly offset the negative economic consequences of the flooding.
Crude oil futures fell 2.5 percent to $46.68 per barrel over concerns that the refinery shutdowns could trigger an increase in crude inventories. Gasoline prices were higher.
Exxon and Chevron were down 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent respectively. Refiner Valero Energy gained 1.1 percent.
Investors sought safe-haven assets, with gold rising to its highest price in nearly 10 months. However, the search for safe havens was accompanied by stock picking in Home Depot, which rose 1.2 percent, and other companies likely to benefit from rebuilding efforts in the region.
Insurer Travelers was the largest drag on the Dow with a 2.6 percent drop to $123.23, while Allstate fell 1.5 percent to $90.65 as investors assessed the likely impact of Harvey on the sector.
The S&P 500 financial sector was the largest weight on the index, with a 0.5 percent drop.
Kite Pharmaceuticals surged 28.0 percent to $178.05 after Gilead Sciences agreed to buy the immunotherapy developer in a deal valued at $11.9 billion. Shares of Gilead rose 1.2 percent.
Expedia fell 4.5 percent after an internal memo by the online travel services company said its CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has been asked to lead Uber.
Approximately 5.13 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, compared with the near 6 billion share daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Day’s Economic News
The Commerce Department reported on Monday morning that our trade deficit increased during July as exports fell, suggesting that trade could make a modest contribution to economic growth in the third quarter. According to the report, the nation’s goods trade gap increased 1.7 percent to $65.1 billion last month. Exports declined 1.3 percent, weighed down by an 8.0 percent tumble in shipments of motor vehicles.
There were also decreases in exports of consumer goods last month. Capital goods exports rose 1.5 percent.
Imports fell 0.3 percent, reflecting a 2.8 percent drop in motor vehicle imports as well as a 1.7 percent decline in industrial supplies. Capital goods imports rose 2.0 percent last months and imports of consumer goods dipped 0.1 percent.
The government will publish its comprehensive trade report, which includes services, next week. Trade added nearly two-tenths of a percentage point to the economy’s 2.6 percent annualized growth rate in the second quarter.
The Commerce Department also reported on Monday that wholesale inventories increased 0.4 percent in July after rising 0.6 percent in June. However, retail inventories fell 0.2 percent after advancing 0.6 percent in June.
Retail inventories, excluding motor vehicles and parts, the component that goes into the calculation of gross domestic product also fell 0.2 percent last month after rising 0.5 percent in June.
Despite July’s soft inventory data, economists remained optimistic that inventory investment would contribute to growth in the third quarter. Inventory investment had a neutral impact on second-quarter GDP after slicing 1.46 percentage points from output in the first three months of the year.
Rains Roil Crude Markets
Oil markets were roiled on Monday after Tropical Storm Harvey wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast over the weekend, crippling Houston and its port, and knocking out several refineries as well as some crude production.
Meanwhile, gasoline prices reached two-year highs as massive floods caused by the storm forced refineries in the area to close. In turn, crude futures fell as the refinery shutdowns could reduce demand for American crude.
Brent futures steadied as pipeline blockades in Libya slashed the OPEC state’s output by nearly 400,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Harvey is the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, causing large-scale flooding, and forcing the closure of Houston port as well as several refineries.
The National Hurricane Center said Harvey was moving away from the coast but was expected to linger close to the shore through Tuesday. It said floods would spread from Texas eastward to Louisiana.
Texas is home to 5.6 million bpd of refining capacity, and Louisiana has 3.3 million bpd. Over 2 million bpd of refining capacity was estimated to be offline as a result of the storm.
Spot prices for domestic gasoline futures rose 7 percent to a peak of $1.7799 per gallon, the highest level since late July 2015, before easing to $1.7341.
Traders were seeking oil product cargoes from North Asia, several refining and shipping sources told Reuters, with transatlantic exports of motor fuel out of Europe expected to surge.
Approximately 22 percent, or 379,000 bpd, of Gulf production was idled due to the storm as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Brent crude futures were up 2 cents at $52.43 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were down 50 cents at $47.37.
The price moves pushed the WTI discount versus Brent to as much as $5.24 per barrel, the widest in two years.
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