NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were lower on Thursday, with biotechnology shares among the weakest of the day as investors continued to take profits.
The day’s losses were spurred by data on jobless claims, which unexpectedly rose in the second discouraging read on the labor market within a week. The report, along with Friday’s bearish payroll report, have given investors few reasons to keep buying with indexes near records.
The S&P 500 is on track for its sixth decline in the past eight sessions, though it remains less than 1 percent from a recent record close.
The high-flying biotech group was among the weakest of the day, down 1.3 percent. Celgene Corp was the biggest decliner on the S&P 500, off 3 percent at $91.28, while Vertex Pharmaceuticals was down 2.3 percent at $92.60.
Biotechs are a frequent target for profit-taking, as many investors view the group - which largely trades on future growth prospects and such volatile elements as drug pipeline progress - as overvalued.
Despite that, Morgan Stanley on Thursday affirmed its “overweight” rating on healthcare stocks, a sector that includes biotech, writing that the sector’s valuation “isn’t an impediment, particularly when compared to its defensive peers on price-to-forward earnings.”
The Dow Jones industrial average was falling 48.49 points, or 0.28 percent, to 17,020.22, the S&P 500 was losing 4.95 points, or 0.25 percent, to 1,990.74 and the Nasdaq Composite was dropping 22.41 points, or 0.49 percent, to 4,564.12.
The largest percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange was Nuverra Environmental Solutions Inc, rising 12.01 percent, while the largest percentage decliner was Brady Corp , down 9.57 percent.
Among the most active stocks on the NYSE were Bank of America, up 0.72 percent to $16.48; Spring Corp, up 4.96 percent to $6.46; and AK Steel Holding, up 2.15 percent to $9.28.
On the Nasdaq, Apple Inc, down 1.0 percent to $99.96; Lululemon Athletica, up 15.3 percent to $44.28; and JDS Uniphase, up 10.2 percent to $13.34 were among the most actively traded.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,634 to 1,376, for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,553 issues were falling and 1,112 advancing for a 1.40-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The broad S&P 500 index was posting 13 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 49 new highs and 36 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)