Stock indexes worldwide were little changed yesterday, with a tumble in healthcare stocks weighing on US shares, while oil prices slumped after a build in US crude inventories added to worries about oversupply.

Healthcare insurers slumped after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she has “serious concerns” about health insurer Aetna Inc’s plan to acquire Humana Inc and Anthem Inc’s proposal to buy Cigna Corp.

The S&P healthcare index was last down 0.7 per cent.

Shares of Valeant tumbled by nearly 28 per cent after a short-seller released a report critical of the company, causing the stock to be temporarily halted due to the decline.

Gloomy quarterly reports dragged on European shares, while confidence over a positive close to the year and continued central bank support ahead of a European Central Bank meeting today capped losses.

“During the course of the third quarter, we actually saw consensus estimates drop for both revenue and earnings,” said Eric Weigand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve at US Bank.

“You could make the point that there is a low hurdle for companies to exceed on these diminished expectations, ” he said.

Chinese bourses gave up earlier gains to close down 3 per cent, the biggest fall since September 15.

MSCI’s all-country world equity index was last up 0.08 per cent. Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index was last down 0.03 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was last up 0.4 per cent at 17,286.33. The S&P 500 was up 0.19 per cent at 2,034.64. The Nasdaq Composite was up 0.15 per cent at 4,888.17.

Brent crude prices hit $47.50 a barrel, while US crude prices hit $44.86, their lowest levels since October 2. The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a rise in US commercial crude stocks of 7.1 million barrels to 473 million barrels in the week to October 16, trumping expectations for an increase of 3.9 million barrels.

Rising supply from the largest-producing countries, along with slowing demand from emerging nations, has cut the price of oil in half over the last year.

“There is a surplus everywhere,” Torbjorn Tornqvist, chief executive of Gunvor, told the Reuters Commodities Summit.

US Treasury yields slumped after disappointing Japanese exports revived worries about sputtering world growth and dimmed prospects for a quick hike in US interest rates. US 30-year Treasury bonds were last up 1-4/32 in price to yield 2.87 per cent, from a yield of 2.92 per cent late Tuesday.

The dollar rose against emerging-market and commodity-linked currencies as Chinese stocks slid, while the yen dipped after the Japanese trade data. The dollar lost ground, however, against the euro ahead of the ECB meeting.


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