S&P 500 eases as falling oil prices hit energy stocks



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NEW YORK — A sharp drop in crude prices tugged down shares in oil and gas companies on Friday, leading the Standard & Poor's 500 index to a slight loss in a short trading session.

The index, a benchmark for many investments, still closed out November with its third-best month this year.

"Crude is the big story today," said JJ Kinahan, TD Ameritrade's chief strategist. "There are very clear winners and losers. The Chevrons and Exxons of the world are getting hammered; then on the other side you have the shipping companies — UPS and FedEx — along with the airlines. For them, it's a beautiful story."

The S&P 500 index lost 5.27 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2,067.56. As a group, energy companies lost 6 percent, the worst drop of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 by far.

The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 0.49 of a point, a sliver of a percent, to eke out another record high, 17,828.24. The Nasdaq composite picked up 4.31 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,791.63. Regular U.S. trading closed at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Friday and the market was shut Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Rising corporate profits and a steadily improving U.S. economy have helped push the stock market to record highs this month. The S&P 500 gained 2.5 percent in November. But it was a quiet climb, a combination of many small steps. There wasn't a single day in November that the index rose more than 1 percent.

The main news driving trading was a decision made Thursday by the OPEC oil cartel to keep production at 30 million barrels a day. That announcement hit oil prices hard as traders expect the global supply of oil to stay high. Crude oil slumped $7.54, or 10 percent, to settle at $66.15.

The recent slide for oil prices has had a double-edged effect on the market. It has given a boost to airlines, shippers, retailers and cruise lines, which benefit from both falling costs and customers having more money in their pockets to spend. But it has battered drillers, producers and other companies that provide services to the oil and gas industry.

It was the same story Friday. United Parcel Service gained 3 percent, and FedEx added 2 percent.

Around the world, the slide in crude prices pulled oil and gas companies down. Newfield Exploration lost 16 percent and QEP Resources 15 percent, the two steepest drops by any company in the S&P 500 index.

In Asia, China's state-owned oil giant CNOOC, the country's biggest crude producer, plunged. In Europe, shares in Royal Dutch Shell, Total and other energy giants fell.

Despite those steep drops, Europe's major markets ended with slight gains. France's CAC 40 added 0.2 percent, while Germany's DAX inched up 0.1 percent. In the U.K, the FTSE 100 index of leading British companies barely moved from the previous day.

"The template for equity markets today has been clear from the beginning," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG. "Oil and energy manufacturers are down, while those companies that are oil consumers are up."

In government bond trading, prices for 10-year Treasurys rose. The yield, which moves in the opposite direction, fell to 2.17 percent.

In metals trading, the price of gold for February delivery lost $22 to $1,175.50 an ounce, and silver for March fell $1.05 to $15.56 an ounce. Copper for March fell 11 cents to $2.85 a pound.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline for December delivery fell 13.12 cents to $1.90 a gallon.

— December heating oil fell 16.57 cents to $2.23 a gallon.

— January natural gas fell 27 cents to $4.09 per 1,000 cubic feet

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AP Business Writer Pan Pylas contributed from London.

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