S&P 500 Heads for First Gain in Five Days as Tech Rises

NEW YORK (AP) -
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(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

U.S. stocks perked higher on Thursday, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was on track for its first increase in five days. Industrial and technology companies paced the gains.

Crude oil and energy stocks clawed back some of their sharp losses from Wednesday. So did Asian stock markets.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 8 points, or 0.3 percent, at 2,637, as of noon Eastern time. If the S&P 500 remains higher at the end of the day, it would snap the longest losing streak for the index since March. Losses over that span have been modest, though, with the index never dropping more than 0.4 percent in a day in that stretch.

The Dow Jones industrials average rose 86, or 0.4 percent, to 24,227; and the Nasdaq composite gained 44, or 0.7 percent, to 6,821.

UP AND DOWN, WEEK: Markets have drifted sideways this week, as Congress finalizes its proposal to overhaul the tax system. The House and Senate are trying to iron out differences in their respective plans, each of which would create slightly different winners and losers among corporate taxpayers. In the meantime, investors have been trying to shift to areas of the market that they see ultimately benefiting the most.

Stocks may continue to drift until investors get more clarity on what the final tax bill will be, said Tom Stringfellow, chief investment officer at Frost Investment Advisors.

“The market has already been bid up on anticipation of this, and the real test will be what do both houses come up with and what is put on the president’s desk to sign,” he said.

In the meantime, a strengthening global economy and climbing corporate earnings are supporting stock prices. “We have seen so many positives flow through, from Europe to Asia to global trade,” Stringfellow said. “It’s just those wild cards out there … that everyone is worried about,” he said, like a potential conflict with North Korea.

TECH RECOVERY: Technology stocks were some of the markets’ better performers, shaking off an uncharacteristic weak stretch. The industry has been the market’s biggest winner this year, but it stumbled in recent days on expectations that it will benefit less from lower tax rates than financial companies, retailers and other areas of the market.

Tech stocks in the S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent, the second-biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the index. They trimmed their loss for the week to 0.3 percent.

BIT MORE ENERGETIC: Energy stocks recovered some of their losses from a day earlier as the price of oil ticked higher.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 64 cents to $56.60 per barrel and recovered more than a third of its $1.66 loss from Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 85 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $62.07 per barrel.

That helped energy stocks in the S&P 500 rise 0.3 percent.

EARNINGS BOOST: Dollar General posted one of the bigger gains in the S&P 500 after reporting stronger revenue and earnings for its latest quarter than analysts expected. It climbed $2.13, or 2.3 percent, to $92.98.

ECONOMY: More evidence that the job market is strengthening arrived after a government report showed that fewer workers filed for unemployment benefits last week. The numbers are considered a proxy for layoffs, and they offer an encouraging sign that the U.S. labor market continues to improve.

On Friday, the government will release its closely watched monthly jobs report. If it shows as much strength as economists expect, the Federal Reserve will likely be on track to raise interest rates at its meeting next week. It would be the third rate increase of the year.

YIELDS: Treasury fell as prices for government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.32 percent from 2.34 percent late Wednesday. The two-year yield dipped to 1.79 percent from 1.81 percent, and the 30-year yield sank to 2.71 percent from 2.73 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 112.65 Japanese yen from 112.28 yen late Wednesday. The euro ticked up to $1.1795 from $1.1793, and the British pound rose to $1.3413 from $1.3375.

COMMODITIES: Gold fell $10.90 to $1,255.20 per ounce, silver lost 15 cents to $15.81 per ounce and copper rose 1 cent to $2.97 per pound.

Natural gas fell 14 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $2.78 per 1,000 cubic feet.

MARKETS ABROAD: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1.4 percent following its worst day since March, a 2 percent loss. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.3 percent, and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5 percent.

Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent, the FTSE 100 in London dipped 0.4 percent and France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent.