US stocks hold steady, following drops around the world

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes held steady Wednesday, following drops in markets around the world. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index flipped between small gains and losses after coming off its first three-day losing streak since the summer.

The recent losses have been relatively gentle, and the S&P 500 is still up more than 17 percent for 2017. But if the S&P 500 ends the day down again, it would be an unusual occurrence in what’s been an unusually calm and easy year for investors. The last time the S&P 500 fell four straight days was in January.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 3 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,632, as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. It had flip-flopped between a loss of 0.2 percent and a gain of 0.1 percent earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 18, or 0.1 percent, at 24,162, and the Nasdaq composite was up 16, or 0.2 percent, at 6,778. Small-company stocks fell. The Russell 2000 index gave up 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,511. More stocks fell on the New York Stock Exchange than rose.

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MEANDERING MARKET: Stocks have been mostly drifting lower this week following a strong run for markets year. The ups and downs have come as the Senate and House of Representatives try to iron out differences in their proposals to overhaul the tax system, and investors shift their portfolios toward companies that stand to benefit most from lower rates, such as financial companies and retailers.

“It looks like we topped out last week and we’ve been rolling a bit here,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors. “The reality is we had a phenomenal run here, and we looked a little overbought in my mind. So I wouldn’t at all discount a little bit of a correction here of 2 or 3 percent.”

The market also is in a relatively quiet period, Orlando said. Companies have finished reporting how much profit they made in the summer, and the fourth-quarter reports won’t start up in earnest again for more than a month. That can lead to a drifting market.

NO SMILES: Companies in the dental industry sank to some of the sharpest losses in the S&P 500 on worries that Amazon will break into the market and drive down earnings for rivals.

Patterson Companies lost $1.54, or 4.2 percent, to $34.78 for the largest loss in the index, and Henry Schein fell $3.56, or 5 percent, to $67.54.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley…

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