US stocks edge higher after 2 days of losses
AP Business Writer
Encouraging data on weekly unemployment benefit applications and factory orders helped lift stock indexes in afternoon trading Thursday.
Telecommunications services stocks were among the biggest risers. Oil prices eased after climbing the day before. The market was coming off a two-day losing streak as traders look ahead to the start of the next round of corporate earnings beginning next week.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,775 as of 2:29 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,068. The Nasdaq composite gained nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,889.
THE QUOTE: Weekly initial unemployment benefit claims were better than expected, and the four-week trend continues to go in the right direction, said Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
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“This is perhaps reversing some of yesterday’s pessimism, trying to trade on the better initial claims news, because we won’t be trading on it tomorrow when we get payrolls,” he said, referring to the government’s monthly nonfarm payroll figures.
That report is due out Friday, when markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.
BACK TO WORK: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to a seasonally adjusted 268,000. The decrease is a sign of a strong job market despite evidence of tepid economic growth in the opening months of 2015.
TAKING ORDERS: New data on U.S. factory orders also helped lift the market. The Commerce Department said orders edged up 0.2 percent in February, breaking a six-month losing streak. Excluding volatile transportation orders, factory orders rose 0.8 percent, the most since June.
MIND THE GAP: The Commerce Department said that the nation’s trade deficit plummeted 16.9 percent to $35.4 billion in February. The trade gap fell as imports and exports sank, driven by a since-settled trade dispute and a global economic slowdown that has cut into oil prices and caused the dollar to rise in value.
EARNINGS AHEAD: Investors have been weighing mixed economic data this week in advance of the next round of corporate earnings, which begins next week. On Tuesday, they got a dash of encouraging data on consumer confidence, spending and home prices. But Wednesday’s reports clouded the economic picture.
SECTOR WATCH: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 rose, led by telecommunications services and consumer discretionary stocks.
DRIVING PROFITS: CarMax climbed 9.1 percent after the dealership operator said that its profit rose sharply in the latest quarter as purchases of used vehicles increased. The stock climbed the most out of all the stocks in the S&P 500 index, adding $6.19 to $74.58.
OWNING JESSICA: Shares in Sequential Brands Group surged 13.4 percent on news that the brand management and licensing company will buy a majority stake in Jessica Simpson’s clothing, apparel and accessories brand. The stock rose $1.43 to $12.10.
HORMONE BOOST: Shares in Repros Therapeutics climbed 5.4 percent after the company said that the Food and Drug Administration accepted its application seeking approval for a testosterone drug. Repros added 46 cents to $8.95.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.2 percent. Germany’s DAX edged down 0.3 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.5 percent and South Korea’s Kospi was nearly flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.8 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 95 cents to close at $49.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.49 to close at $50.09 a barrel on Wednesday on signs that U.S. production growth is slowing.
BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.90 percent from 1.86 percent late Wednesday.
METALS: Gold fell $7.30 to $1,200.90 an ounce, silver fell 36 cents to $16.70 an ounce and copper edged down a penny to $2.73 a pound.
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