12:44 PM, Mar 16, 2017 — The main US markets were declining on Thursday afternoon with health care leading the losses on the Standard & Poor’s 500 and energy weaker amid lower oil prices.
Stocks were unable to maintain the rally they posted a day earlier after the Federal Open Market Committee raised interest rates as expected, while signalling that members see a total of three hikes this year, unchanged from the outlook given in December.
Investors were looking at the Donald Trump budget proposals released on Thursday, which includes $5.8 billion in spending cuts to the National Institutes of Health. The health care sector on the S&P 500 fell 1.1% in the steepest decline among the 11 groups, while Merck (MRK) and Pfizer (PFE) retreated 0.7% each to be among two-thirds of the Dow Jones Industrial Average blue chips that weakened.
Energy lost 0.6% on the S&P 500 as West Texas Intermediate, the main US oil variety, fell 0.6% to $48.57 a barrel. Chevron (CVX) fell about 1% and Transocean (RIG) shed 2.6%.
In company news, Oracle (ORCL) advanced 7.5% after fiscal third quarter earnings beat estimates and the company guided fourth quarter earnings in line to above the Wall Street view. Nucor (NUE) gained 2.9% after the steelmaker said it expects first quarter earnings to improve sequentially to a range that is well above Street expectations.
The day’s economic data had the Job Openings and Labor Turnover surveys report showing openings rose 87,000 to 5.63 million in January after declining 92,000 to 5.54 million in December. Housing starts rebounded 3% to 1.288 million in February after sliding to 1.251 million in January. Single family starts rose 6.5%, though multifamily starts were down 3.7%. Permits declined 6.2%.
In afternoon trading, the Dow and the S&P 500 were both about 0.1% lower while the Nasdaq was little changed.