Merck, Walmart Buoy the Dow Wednesday

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March 28, 2018: Markets opened mixed Wednesday and while the Dow and the S&P Composite traded higher for most of the day, the seemingly regular late afternoon sell-off took over in the last hour of the regular session. March trading, which officially ends Thursday, looks to wipe nearly 5% from the Dow, and more than 3.5% from the other two major indexes.

WTI crude oil for May delivery settled at $64.38 a barrel, down 1.3% for the day following a mixed report on inventories. April gold dropped about 1.3% on the day to settle at $1,324.20. Equities were headed for a mixed close about 10 minutes before the bell as the Dow traded up 0.40% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.20%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded down 0.39%.

Equity indexes traded very near the break-even line just minutes before the closing bell. The closing tally could show either a small gain or a small loss for any of the indexes.

Bitcoin futures (XBTJ8) for April delivery traded at $7,860, down about 0.4% on the CBOE after opening at $8,020 this morning. The digital currency’s trading range for the day was $7,750 to $8,100.

The Dow stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Wednesday was Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) which traded up about 2.55% at $55.12. The stock’s 52-week range is $52.97 to $66.41. Volume was about 30% below the daily average of around 13 million. The company had no specific news.

Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) traded up 2.00% at $87.77. The stock’s 52-week range is $70.31 to $109.98. Volume was about 30% below the daily average of around 12 million shares. The company said today it would remove Cosmopolitan magazine from its checkout areas and move the magazine to a different location in the store.

The Dow stock posting the largest daily percentage loss ahead of the close Wednesday was Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) which traded down 2.45% at $49.94 in a 52-week range of $33.23 to $53.78. Volume of about 31 million shares was around 15% below the daily average. The company had no specific news.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) traded down 1.69% at $41.96. The stock’s 52-week range is $30.36 to $46.16. Volume was about equal to the daily average of about 28 million. The company had no specific news.

Of the Dow stocks, 17 are on track to close higher Wednesday and 13 are set to close lower.

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