Stocks turn mixed as oil prices drop sharply

Stocks turn mixed as oil prices drop sharply

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Stocks reversed course and were mixed in afternoon trading as major indexes pulled back after earlier hitting new intraday record highs.

The declines were led by the energy sector as crude oil prices plunged more than 2% and fell below $75 a barrel on expectations of strong supplies.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down less than 0.1% after earlier hitting a new intraday record high of 17,705.48 on better-than-expected earnings from Walmart.

The nation’s largest retailer was the leader among the 30 stocks of the blue-chip index and was up more than 4%.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index cut its earlier gains and was trading down 0.2% after hitting an all-time high of 2046.18. The Nasdaq composite index was up 0.1%

In corporate merger news:

• Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKABRKB) announced it is buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble (PG)in a deal valued at $4.7 billion.

• Shares of Dreamworks Animation (DWA) surged 13% on reports that toymaker Hasbro (HAS) was in talks to buy the film studio. Hasbro was down about 5%.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 1.1% to close at 17,392.79, as machinery orders there rose 2.9% over the previous month, defying predictions of a decline. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3% to 24,019.94 and the Shanghai composite fell 0.4% to 2485.61.

European benchmarks were higher, with Britain’s FTSE gaining 0.3%, Germany’s DAX climbing 0.4% and France’s CAC 40 up 0.3%.

Wednesday, markets retreated slightly as six big banks were fined $4.3 billion in a settlement over foreign exchange manipulation charges, although the Nasdaq still managed to gain 0.3%.

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