Wall Street slumps on weak tech, energy shares

NEW YORK (AFP) - Weakness in energy equities and technology giants Apple and Facebook pushed US stocks lower Friday (Sept 23), cutting into the gains of the prior two sessions.

An exception was Twitter, which surged 21.4 per cent following reports it is in talks with potential acquirers, including Google and Salesforce.com.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.7 per cent to 18,261.45.

The broad-based S&P 500 declined 0.6 per cent to 2,164.69, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.6 per cent to 5,305.75.

Google parent Alphabet ended unchanged, while Salesforce dropped 5.6 per cent after both were reported to have shown interest in buying Twitter, which has struggled to build on the growth momentum of its early years.

Apple fell 1.7 per cent on speculation that iPhone sales have been disappointing, while Facebook lost 1.6 per cent on concerns about its online advertising prospects after it acknowledged that it had previously counted cases of users watching for as few as three seconds.

Oil-linked stocks retreated, with petroleum prices, as Halliburton shed 1.9 per cent and ConocoPhillips declined 2.6 per cent.

Analysts said the market was due for a pullback after the Nasdaq finished at records the last two days following the Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates low.

Michael James, managing director of Wedbush Securities, said the market is torn between the threat of weak third-quarter earnings and belief that the Fed's easy-money policies will propel stocks even higher.

He predicted more volatility, saying "it depends which of those views takes hold on a daily basis."

Dow member Procter & Gamble fell 1.4 per cent following a report from Bloomberg News that said P&G brands in skin care and men's shaving were losing US market share to competitors.

Yahoo sank 3.1 per cent following the Thursday disclosure that hackers took data on at least 500 million users, one of the biggest thefts of personal data ever.

Marriott International shed 1.9 per cent after announcing it completed its US$13.6 billion takeover of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.