Most stocks slip amid worries about wages, oil prices

US stocks gave up a promising start and finished mostly lower Wednesday as investors continued to worry about lagging wages and energy companies’ shares dropped along with the price of oil.

Stocks climbed early on as a solid quarterly report from Morgan Stanley revived optimism about banks, and strong results from the auto and industrial parts distributor Genuine Parts sent car makers and suppliers higher. Genuine Parts raised its profit forecast, but acknowledged its US business has been weak. The stock rose 2 percent.

The gains began to fade around noon as oil prices and energy companies sagged. The losses accelerated after the mid-afternoon release of the Federal Reserve’s ‘‘Beige Book’’ survey of economic conditions.


The Fed said economic growth continued from mid-March into early April and pay improved for some workers. But investors have been wondering when rising statistics like consumer confidence will start to turn into better pay and greater spending.

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‘‘Show me where those numbers are translating into something more than just feelings,’’ said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist for Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished down 0.2 percent, at 2,338.17. The Dow lost 0.6 percent, to 20,404.49. Half of the blue-chip index’s losses came from IBM, which reported weaker-than-expected quarterly sales.

The Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 percent, to 5,863.03, as health care companies climbed.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies added 0.4 percent, to 1,367.13.


Oil prices slumped after the Energy Information Administration said US crude inventories didn’t shrink as much as investors hoped they would last week, and stockpiles are larger than normal. Benchmark US crude lost 3.8 percent to $50.44 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 3.6 percent to $52.93 per barrel.

All 34 energy companies on the S&P 500 finished lower.

IBM slumped 4.9 percent after it reported $18.16 billion in revenue in the first quarter. According to FactSet, that was more than $200 million below analysts’ estimates. It was the second day in a row that a weak report from a single company pulled the Dow sharply lower, as Goldman Sachs did on Tuesday.

Intuitive Surgical, maker of robotic surgical systems, climbed 6.4 percent after its profit and revenue beat analysts’ projections.