Stocks traded mixed on Friday, Sept. 8, with trading cautious heading into a weekend when Hurricane Irma is expected to batter the Florida coast.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.16%, the S&P 500 was down 0.08%, and the Nasdaq declined 0.42%.
Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a category 4 storm overnight, though the U.S. National Hurricane Center cautioned that it remained "extremely dangerous" and possibly "life-threatening" as it makes an expected landfall on the U.S. mainland on Saturday, Sept. 9. The NHC expects Irma to continue to move through the Bahamas, reaching the north Cuba coast before heading toward southern Florida.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued orders late Thursday to close all school colleges and universities in the state until at least Tuesday, Sept. 12, while all of the state's professional sports teams, as well as its major university athletic programs, cancelled weekend competitions.
The storm has killed 14 people on its path across the Caribbean, according to various local officials, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of island residents.
Hurricane watch has kept trading nervous in recent days as investors assess the possible economic damage wrought by Irma even as the recovery from Hurricane Harvey continues. Harvey devastated the area surrounding Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, with catastrophic, record-setting flooding in late August. Moody's said total losses from Hurricane Harvey will come in between $45 billion and $65 billion, with overall U.S. economic losses between $6 billion and $10 billion.
Insurance stocks made a comeback on Friday after days of steep losses. Travelers Cos. (TRV - Get Report) was one of the top performers on the Dow after heavy losses on Tuesday and Thursday. The stock rose nearly 4%. Other property and casualty insurance providers such as American International Group Inc. (AIG - Get Report) and Allstate Corp. (ALL - Get Report) were also higher.
Crude oil prices held onto sharp losses on Friday. A weekly reading on drilling activity showed a slight decline, but not enough for any big swings in crude prices. Baker Hughes reported that the number of active rigs drilling for crude fell by one to 944. The number of active oil rigs dipped by three to 756.
Drilling activity and refinery output have been on the fritz in the wake of Harvey. Historic flooding in Texas and Louisiana, energy-heavy areas, had taken a number of refineries offline and caused crude inventories to balloon in the past week.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down 2% to $48.12 a barrel on Friday.
Energy stocks were among the worst performers on markets Friday. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM - Get Report) , Chevron Corp. (CVX - Get Report) , Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB - Get Report) , Halliburton Co. (HAL - Get Report) , and EQT Corp. (EQT - Get Report) were lower, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE - Get Report) dropped 1.5%.
Equifax Inc. (EFX - Get Report) plummeted 12% after disclosing that a massive security breach had compromised millions of people's private data. The credit reporting agency estimates that more than 143 million people had their names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and drivers license numbers exposed in the cyber attack.
Kroger Co. (KR - Get Report) declined 10% even after posting a second-quarter beat. The supermarket chain earned an adjusted 47 cents a share, higher than consensus of 39 cents. Sales of $27.6 billion nudged past an expected $27.5 billion. Same-store sales growth of 0.7% exceeded estimates of 0.4%. For the full year, Kroger anticipates adjusted earnings of $2 to $2.05 a share and for same-supermarket sales to increase by 0.5% to 1%.
American Outdoor Brands Corp. (AOBC - Get Report) tumbled 17% after a disappointing first quarter and following weak guidance. Earnings of 2 cents a share missed expectations by 9 cents, while revenue plunged nearly 38% to $129.02 million and missed estimates by roughly $20 million.
The company said a weaker first quarter "reflected lower than anticipated shipments in our Firearms business, consistent with a softening in wholesaler and retailer orders." Concerns over weak gun demand sent industry peers lower, including Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR - Get Report) , Sportsman's Warehouse Holdings Inc. (SPWH - Get Report) and Vista Outdoor Inc. (VSTO - Get Report) .
For the second quarter, American Outdoor anticipates sales no higher than $150 million, weaker than $174 million consensus, and earnings of 7 cents to 12 cents a share, falling short of per-share profit estimates of 30 cents.
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG - Get Report) declined 4% after Cowen analysts downgraded the stock to underperform from market perform and slashed its price target to $250 from $370. The firm also cut its full-year 2017 earnings estimates. Analysts forecast struggles to regain customer trust following multiple high profile food safety scares.
Updated from 1:23 p.m. ET, Sept. 8.
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