Stocks mixed as banks stumble; health care climbs





US stock indexes finished nearly back where they started Thursday as steep losses for banks and insurance companies were balanced out by gains at health care and technology companies.

Banks skidded as bond yields reached their lowest levels of the year, which sent interest rates down. Insurance companies plunged as investors weighed the prospects of big losses caused by Hurricane Irma, which is hitting the north Caribbean and is projected to reach Florida this weekend. Payment-processing companies rose after Mastercard increased its revenue forecasts, while losses for Comcast and Disney hurt media companies.

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The economy ‘‘is going to suffer a few dents from the storms,’’ said John DeClue, chief investment officer for US Bank Private Wealth Management. But he said the economy ‘‘is in remarkably good shape,’’ and that won’t change even if damage from hurricanes Harvey and Irma slows economic growth for a few months.

If the storms have a noticeable effect on the economy, he added, that will help make sure the Federal Reserve moves slowly in raising interest rates. That’s something investors want to see.

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The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged down 0.44 points to 2,465.10. The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 22.86 points, or 0.1 percent, to 21,784.78. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.55 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,397.87. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 3.52 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,398.67.

Most stocks on the New York Stock Exchange rose.

The dollar fell to a 2½-year low after the European Central Bank raised its economic growth forecast for the region this year. That made the euro stronger and the dollar weaker.

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‘‘The European economy is arguably doing as well as ours, or better,’’ DeClue said.

Insurers slumped as Hurricane Irma cut a path of devastation through the Caribbean. Reinsurance companies fell sharply because many of their policies are for catastrophic losses such as those caused by a hurricane.

XL Group fell 5.1 percent, while Everest Re slid 6.8 percent. Berkshire Hathaway, which owns GEICO and other insurers, slumped 1.6 percent.

The euro strengthened to $1.2003 from $1.1913 and the dollar fell to 108.65 yen from 109.37 yen.

That helped technology companies, which make most of their sales overseas. Microsoft added 1.3 percent. The weaker dollar makes US-made products less expensive in other markets and increases company profits when they are converted back into dollars. That’s one reason tech companies have done far better than any other S&P 500 sector this year.

AbbVie rose 6.1 percent, and Bristol-Myers gained 5 percent after the companies reported positive clinical trial results. Eli Lilly climbed 1.3 percent after it said it will cut 3,500 jobs, or about 9 percent of its total. Biotechnology companies also rallied.

Bond prices climbed and yields fell to their lowest level since November. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.04 percent from 2.11 percent late Wednesday.

Banks took losses. Bank of America fell 1.9 percent, and JPMorgan Chase gave up 1.8 percent.

Gold rose to its highest price in a year, up $11.30 to $1,350.30 an ounce.

Cable providers and cable channel operators fell after Comcast said it expects to lose as many as 150,000 video subscribers in the third quarter and that competition has been unusually intense. It said intense storms also contributed to the problem. Comcast dropped 6.2 percent.

Disney fell 4.4 percent after CEO Bob Iger said earnings this year will be about the same as the year before, which disappointed analysts.

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