It was another shaky day on Wall Street as indexes rallied in the morning, bobbed up and down for much of the day, then sank in the last few minutes of trading. Energy companies dropped along with oil prices; technology companies also declined.
Stocks were coming off a big gain on Tuesday. At times investors looked ready to jump back in after steep losses Friday and Monday, yet every gain was met with more selling. About 20 minutes before the close of trading the Dow Jones industrial average was up more than 260 points, but it finished with a small loss.
After two steep plunges, including its worst loss in 6½ years on Monday, the S&P 500 is down 6.7 percent from its most recent record high, set Jan. 26.
While markets were noticeably calmer Wednesday, there are signs that investors are still far more nervous than they were just a few days ago. The VIX, called Wall Street’s ‘‘fear gauge’’ because it measures how much volatility investors expect in the future, is currently at 27, more than double the reading of two weeks ago. It spiked above 50 early Tuesday.
‘‘The markets had blinders on,’’ said Invesco’s chief global markets strategist, Kristina Hooper. ‘‘I thought it was almost alarming that markets weren’t considering that, for example, we have a different [Federal Reserve] in 2018 that could be more hawkish.’’
Stocks tumbled Friday after the Labor Department said wages rose in January at the fastest pace in eight years. That’s good for the economy, but Hooper noted higher pay can reduce corporate profits, and those profits are the stock market’s fuel. And while higher pay affects company profits quickly, it can take a long time for workers to start spending more money after they get raises.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 0.5 percent, to 2,681.66. The Dow slipped 0.1 percent, to 24,893.35. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.9 percent, to 7,051.98. Smaller companies fared better than the rest of the market, and more stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.
The gap between the Dow’s highest and lowest levels on Wednesday was about 500 points, or 2 percent. That big, but it was dwarfed by the lurching moves the market made in the previous few days.
While investors may be uncertain about where stocks are going, they’re not rushing for cover in ultra-safe investments like bonds. Bond prices fell, sending yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for mortgages and other kinds of loans, rose to 2.84 percent from 2.81 percent.
Other safe-play investments also fell. The price of gold fell 1.1 percent, to $1,314.60 an ounce, and silver lost 2.1 percent, to $16.24 an ounce. Precious metals prices often rise when the market hits a rough patch. They climbed in December and January and have actually decreased over the last few days.
Global markets mostly rose and appeared calmer Wednesday. Germany’s DAX was up 1.6 percent while the British FTSE 100 index rose 1.9 percent. The CAC 40 in France picked up 1.8 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average closed up 0.2 percent. The Kospi in South Korea fell 2.3 percent.
The biggest technology companies fared the worst. Apple fell 2.1 percent, and Facebook lost 2.8 percent. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, lost 2.7 percent.
Wynn Resorts jumped 8.6 percent after Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and CEO. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a number of women accused Wynn of sexual harassment or assault and said Wynn paid $7.5 million to settle one such case.
Wynn has denied the accusations but said he could not be effective in his corporate positions in the face of those allegations. Wynn stock has fallen 11.6 percent since the Journal’s report.
Energy companies fell as oil prices sank. Benchmark US crude dropped 2.5 percent, to $61.79 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard for oil prices, lost 2 percent, to $65.51 in London. That came after the US government said oil production jumped last week, raising concerns about an increase in the supply of crude.
Newspaper publisher Tronc soared 19.1 percent after it agreed to sell the Los Angeles Times and a group of other newspapers to Patrick Soon-Shiong, a major Tronc shareholder and former board member, for $500 million.
Snap, the parent of Snapchat, rose 47.6 percent after it reported strong user growth and greater-than-expected revenue. The stock went public in March.