Stocks edge lower in early trading a day after a big gain


NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are slightly lower in Wednesday morning trading as oil prices decline and utility stocks struggle. A day earlier, stocks made their biggest gains in more than a month. Utility company stocks are tumbling as bond prices continue to fall, making the dividend-rich sector less appealing to investors.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 55 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,809 as of 10:18 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,974. The Nasdaq composite edged down three points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,686.

IN THE WEEDS: Agribusiness giant Monsanto fell after cutting its annual profit forecast. The company cut its projections because of the strong dollar, competition from lower-cost generic products, and lower commodity prices, which are hurting its customers. The stock lost $5.02, or 5.4 percent, to $87.47.

TAKE A DRINK: Spirits maker Brown-Forman, whose brands include Jack Daniels, fell $3.91, or 4 percent, to $93.75 after lowering its own profit estimates. The company makes 60 percent of its sales overseas, and it’s being affected by the strong dollar, cutbacks in travel, and weak economies in some emerging markets.

ZYNGA’S HIRE: Online games maker Zynga rose after the company named a new CEO. Board member and former Electronic Arts executive Frank Gibeau will become CEO next week. A year ago, company founder and controlling shareholder Mark Pincus returned to Zynga as CEO, replacing Don Mattrick, who had been on the job less than two years.

Zynga’s has struggled to follow up on its early hit games including “FarmVille” and “Clumsy Ninja.” The stock added 14 cents, or 6.5 percent, to $2.30. It traded over $14 in early 2012, shortly after going public.

TAKE FIVE: Sporting goods retailer Big 5 Sporting Goods fell $1.84, or 13.8 percent, to $11.45 as it offered a weak profit forecast, and competing retailer Sports Authority said it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Sports Authority said it plans to close or sell about 140 stores, or almost a third of its locations.

MORE EARNINGS: Digital health and wellness company Everyday Health leapt $1.02, or 21.9 percent, to $5.68 following a strong quarterly report. Insurance software company Guidewire Software also rose $2.48, or 4.9 percent, to $53 after its profit and sales surpassed expectations.

SEEKING STABILITY: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.86 percent from 1.82 percent a day earlier. Bond yields also climbed on Tuesday. Rising bond yields have driven investors away from utility stocks, which are seen as less volatile stocks that tend to pay high dividends. Investors have been favoring them in recent months as the rest of the market turned turbulent. They are still the second-best performing sector in the market so far this year.

Among individual utility stocks, NextEra Energy gave up $2.13, or 1.9 percent, to $110.47 and Dominion Resources lost 97 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $68.28.

OVERSEAS: France’s CAC 40 was up 0.1 percent and Germany’s DAX rose 0.2 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares lost 0.5 percent. A weak yen added to investor optimism, sending Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 up 4.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 3.1 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 65 cents to 33.75 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil, fell 61 cents to $36.20 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro slipped to $1.0837 from $1.0868 and the dollar fell to 113.94 yen after climbing to 114.05 yen Tuesday.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed to his report. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP

His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay.