Stocks Brush Off Year’s First Wobble, Return to Records

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks brushed aside their first wobble of the year and got back to setting records on Thursday. Energy stocks led after the price of oil touched its highest level since 2014.

The gains for indexes marked a return to calm, after a whiff of nervousness wafted through markets a day earlier as interest rates rose. After rates held steady on Thursday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index marked its seventh gain in the last eight days.

The S&P 500 rose 19.33 points, or 0.7 percent, to a record 2,767.56. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 205.60 points, or 0.8 percent, to 25,574.73, the Nasdaq composite gained 58.21 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,211.78 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks surged 26.99 points, or 1.7 percent, to 1,586.79.

Optimism about a strengthening global economy and growing corporate profits have helped propel markets even though stocks have become more expensive than they’ve historically been relative to earnings.

Rates retreated on Thursday after China’s foreign exchange regulator challenged a report that had helped drive up yields, which said China may slow or halt purchases of U.S. Treasuries. A U.S. government report on Thursday also showed that inflation was weaker on the wholesale level last month than economists expected.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.53 percent from 2.56 percent late Wednesday. It had climbed as high as 2.59 percent on Wednesday.

While a quick jump in rates could easily jolt markets out of the calm ride they’ve been on, investors say markets are prepared for a gradual rise.

Energy stocks were the day’s biggest stars after the price of oil touched its highest price in more than three years. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 23 cents to settle at $63.80 per barrel after earlier climbing as high as $64.77. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 6 cents to $69.26 per barrel.

That helped drive energy stocks in the S&P 500 to a 2 percent gain, the largest among the 11 sectors that make up the index. They’re at their highest level since the end of 2016.

Anadarko Petroleum had one of the biggest gains in the index after jumping $3.09, or 5.6 percent, to $58.50.

The stock market has repeatedly shrugged off concerns through its placid ride to records. Whether investors are worried about a pickup in rates in the future or about how stocks have become more expensive than usual, any dip for the market over the last year has been shallow and short.

Businesses will need to produce strong growth to justify gains their stocks have made, and expectations are also high CEOs will unveil encouraging profit forecasts for 2018 after Washington cut their income-tax rates.

In markets abroad, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent, South Korea’s Kospi retreated 0.5 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged 0.2 percent higher.

The dollar dipped to 111.09 Japanese yen from 111.35 late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.2036 from $1.1957, and the British pound rose to $1.3536 from $1.3509.

In the commodities markets, gold gained $3.20 to settle at $1,322.50 per ounce, silver lost 7 cents to $16.97 per ounce and copper rose 2 cents to $3.23 per pound.

Natural gas rose 18 cents to settle at $3.08 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil was nearly flat at $2.08 per gallon and wholesale gasoline was steady at $1.84 per gallon.