NEW YORK—Stocks slipped yesterday in one of the quietest trading sessions of the year. Worries about European debt crept up again, and Apple became the most valuable company of all time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.56 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 13,271.64. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell a sliver, 0.03 point, to 1,418.13. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.38 point to 3,076.21. With many traders and investors on vacation, volume on the New York Stock Exchange was light, just 2.7 billion shares traded. The average this year is about 1 billion more. In a monthly report, the German central bank reiterated doubts about having the European Central Bank buy bonds to help struggling European economies. It stressed that such purchases could carry “substantial risks.” Earlier this month, stocks rallied after ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank might buy bonds of some European countries to lower their borrowing costs. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also seemed to soften her stance on the idea. “We’re getting mixed messages at best coming from Europe,” said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist at US Bank Wealth Management. “Investors are on the sidelines, and they’re still a little scared.”
Apple, the most valuable company in the world, became the most valuable in history. It hit a market value of US$623 billion, surpassing Microsoft’s record from 1999. Apple is worth almost twice as much as the next most valuable company, Exxon Mobil. Apple stock rose US$17.04, or 2.6 per cent, to US$665.15. Stocks had been inching up for six weeks. On Friday, both the Dow and the S&P closed just below four-year highs. Yesterday’s drop was the 11th trading day in a row of moves of less than one per cent for the S&P, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. In same period last year, amid fears the US would default on its debt and a possible second recession, the S&P moved up or down by one per cent or more roughly every other day. Other stocks moving sharply yesterday included Lowe’s, the world’s No 2 home improvement store. It missed earnings expectations and lowered its outlook for the year. The stock fell six per cent.
The health insurer Aetna announced it would buy Coventry Health Care for US$5.7 billion as the insurance industry realigns itself to better navigate the health care overhaul. Aetna rose US$2.14, or nearly six per cent, to US$40.18. Coventry climbed US$7.10, or 20 per cent, to US$42.04. The deal follows the US$4.46 billion buyout last month of another insurer by WellPoint Inc, and last year’s acquisition worth nearly US$4 billion by Cigna of HealthSpring as it grabbed for a share of Medicare revenue. Best Buy slid ten per cent after rejecting an offer from its founder and largest shareholder to take the electronics retailer private. The company named Hubert Joly, the former head of global hospitality company Carlson and a turnaround expert, as CEO yesterday. Facebook gained 96 cents, or five per cent, to US$20.01, following a slide last week after some insiders were able to sell stock for the first time since the company’s public trading debut in May at an offering price of US$38. In the S&P 500, six of the ten0 main industry groups fell, led by a 0.8 per cent drop in telecommunications stocks. (AP)