US stocks mostly down as deadly storm Irma looms


NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Friday (Sept 8), with technology shares especially weak, as markets girded for a second major US hurricane in less than two weeks.

Florida's highways were jammed with families fleeing their homes as Hurricane Irma honed in on the Sunshine State after killing at least 17 people across the Caribbean.

"With this Irma storm bearing down on Florida, it is creating a lot of near term uncertainty," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

Major storms like Irma and Harvey, which pummeled Houston late last month, typically weigh on short-term economic activity, although there is a bounce later when rebuilding gets underway.

Ablin said the storms could delay plans by the Federal Reserve to raise the benchmark interest rate a third time this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1 per cent to end at 21,797.79.

But the broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.2 per cent to 2,461.43, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 0.6 per cent to 6,360.19.

Large tech shares such as Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Facebook and Tesla Motors all lost at least 1 per cent.

But insurers, which have been weak in some recent sessions, rallied. Dow member Travelers won 4 per cent, while Allstate climbed 3.7 per cent.

Credit reporting agency Equifax sank 13.7 per cent after it disclosed that it suffered a hack that affected as many as 143 million US customers, nearly half the country's population.

But shares of cybersecurity companies gained, with Symantec advancing 3.4 per cent, and FireEye 1.5 per cent.

Supermarket chain Kroger fell 7.5 per cent as it posted a 7.8 per cent drop in second-quarter profits to US$353 million (S$473 million) as aggressive pricing cuts dampened earnings.