US stocks end lower as Greek protests rattle investors

NEW YORK (AFP) - US stocks finished modestly lower Wednesday, snapping a four-day winning streak after violent protests outside the Greek parliament revived anxiety about the euro zone.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 3.41 points (0.02 per cent) to 18,050.17.

The broad-based S&P 500 lost 1.55 (0.07 per cent) at 2,107.40, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 5.95 (0.12 per cent) to 5,098.94.

US stocks were in positive territory most of the day, but an afternoon sell-off was triggered by images of riot police spewing tear gas as hooded protesters hurled petrol bombs at them outside the Greek parliament, while lawmakers inside debated whether to accept a European bailout package to stave off a debt default.

“What was priced into the market was a smooth agreement” in Greece, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

“That violent protest outside the parliament and the timing of the rollover in the market (into negative territory) is identical,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen stuck to her forecast for an increase in the Fed’s key interest rate later this year based on an improving US economy.

Data showed US industrial production rose in June, while the Fed’s Beige Book reported “modest” or “moderate” growth across the US.

Macy’s surged 7.9 per cent after Jeff Smith, chief executive of activist investor Starboard Value, told an investor conference he had acquired a stake in the department store chain and that it should spin off its valuable real estate holdings into a separate company.

Bank of America jumped 3.2 per cent after second-quarter earnings more than doubled to US$5.3 billion (S$7.2 billion) on a big drop in legal costs.

Biopharmaceutical company Receptos, which specializes in treatments of immune and metabolic diseases, surged 11.1 per cent on news it will be acquired by Celgene for US$7.2 billion. Celgene rose 7 per cent.

Delta Air Lines rose 0.8 per cent after reporting earnings in the second quarter soared 85 per cent to US$1.5 billion. The airline projected the ratio of revenue to each seat mile flown, a key industry benchmark, would drop 4.5-6.5 per cent in the third quarter.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 2.36 per cent from 2.4 per cent, while the 30-year dropped to 3.15 per cent from 3.2 per cent Tuesday. Bond prices and yields move inversely.