Healthcare stocks come off lows, worst performing sector among defensive losers (update)
Health and pharma stocks pared some of their losses in Friday late afternoon trading, as the broader market moved higher amid improved sentiment.
Health Care, along with fellow defensive sectors Utilities and Consumer Staples, were the top three losers among the 11 S&P 500 (SP500) sectors.
The S&P 500 Health Care sector had bounced back and was now down 1.58%, having fallen as much as 2.55% earlier. Its accompanying SPDR Health Care Select Sector ETF (NYSEARCA:XLV) was now 1.51% lower.
The sector and its accompanying ETF gained more than 9% in October, but so far both have shown weakness in November.
Insurance giant UnitedHealth (UNH) and drugmakers Merck (MRK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Amgen (AMGN) were the top percentage losers on the blue-chip Dow (DJI).
MRK was down 4%, JNJ had shed 3.1% and AMGN was lower by 2.3%.
Other drugmakers such as Eli Lilly (LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) retreated 4.3% and 4.8%, respectively. Pfizer (PFE) was a bright spot, rising 0.2%.
Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen (ABC), Cardinal Health (CAH) and McKesson (MCK) fell 2.3%-4.6%.
UNH led a host of health insurers lower on above-average volumes. Managed care organizations have posted a notable outperformance this year.
Pharmacy operators were mixed, with CVS Health (CVS) down 2.5% but Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) up 7.2%.
Bucking the trend, some medical device companies advanced. Medtronic was 1.5% higher and Edwards Lifesciences (EW) had added 2.6%.