Business & Tech

Stocks close mostly lower as oil slips


A slide in oil and natural gas companies led the Dow and S&P 500 lower Monday, even as the Nasdaq eked out another record high. Energy-sector stocks declined the most, weighed down by lower prices for crude oil. Utility and phone company stocks also fell sharply. But rising health care and technology stocks helped lift the Nasdaq, extending a winning streak into a fifth day. Investors mostly focused on company earnings and several corporate deals. The market’s postelection rally sputtered the last week of December. So far this year, the major stock indexes have mostly inched higher. That could change later this week, when the next wave of company earnings news starts rolling in. ‘‘It really gets down to earnings now,’’ said Jim Davis, at US Bank. ‘‘The last few quarters, the bar has been set pretty low . . . Investors are expecting some earnings growth this year.’’ Disappointing earnings pulled Acuity Brands down nearly 15 percent Monday, making it the biggest decliner on the S&P 500. Investors rewarded strong earnings from Global Payments; its stock climbed 7.2 percent, leading all gainers on the S&P 500. UnitedHealth’s $2.3 billion bid for Surgical Care Affiliates drove the latter up 16.2 percent, but UnitedHealth slipped 0.3 percent. VCA vaulted 28.3 percent after the pet health care company agreed to be acquired by Mars Inc. for $7.7 billion. The deal includes $1.4 billion in debt. Several oil and gas companies racked up losses as energy futures prices fell. Southwestern Energy fell 4.9 percent, while Range Resources and Devon Energy each lost 4.3 percent. US benchmark crude oil fell 3.8 percent to $51.96 a barrel.

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