Stocks Approach Record as Technology, Energy Stocks Gain

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks climbed back close to record levels on Thursday as technology, materials and energy companies all notched big gains.

Cisco Systems led the technology sector higher after reporting better-than-expected earnings. Energy stocks rose as the price of oil rebounded following two days of heavy losses.

There were also big gains for online travel companies. Expedia and Orbitz jumped after Expedia said that it was acquiring its rival. TripAdvisor also surged on speculation that the wave of consolidation in the industry would continue.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 19.95 points, or 1 percent, to 2,088.48. The index is within two points of its record close of 2,090.57, set Dec. 29.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 110.24 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,972. The Nasdaq composite climbed 56.43 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,857.61.

On Tuesday, stocks opened higher on encouraging news from Europe, where world leaders clinched a ceasefire deal for Ukraine and as investors were hopeful that Greece would be able to reach an agreement with its creditors.

An emergency meeting Wednesday between Greece’s new government and finance ministers from nations using the euro ended in a stalemate. Greece wants its creditors to ease terms of a bailout program that has imposed years of austerity on the country.

Despite the setback, investors are hopeful that a deal will be reached. The main Athens stock index jumped 6.7 percent.

In the U.S., TripAdvisor was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, surging $15.13, or 23 percent, to $82.40, after the announcement of Expedia’s bid for Orbitz.

Cisco, a major maker of computer networking equipment, was another big gainer. The stock jumped $2.53, or 9.4 percent, to $29.46 after it reported earnings late Wednesday that exceeded analysts’ expectations. The company’s outlook for the full year was also better than expected.

The S&P 500 index is up 4.7 percent for the month. If the market closes out the month at this level, it will be the best performance for the index since July 2013.

On Thursday, American Express was among the day’s losers after the company said that it failed to reach an agreement to renew an exclusivity deal with Costco. The current agreement covers U.S. stores and will end March 31, 2016.

Amex slumped $5.53, or 6.4 percent, to $80.48.

In energy trading, the price of oil rose sharply as the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell said he expects crude demand will grow faster than supply this year. Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.37 to close at $51.21 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $2.39 to close at $57.05 in London.

In U.S. government bond trading, prices rose slightly. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged down to 1.97 percent from 1.99 percent on Wednesday.

The dollar fell to 119 yen from 120.16 yen the previous day. The euro rose to $1.1406 from $1.1319.

In metals trading, gold rose $1.10 to $1,220.70 an ounce, silver rose three cents to $16.79 an ounce and copper rose five cents to $2.60 a pound.

In other energy trading, In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

  • Wholesale gasoline rose 5.3 cents to close at $1.596 a gallon.
  • Heating oil rose 10 cents to close at $1.914 a gallon.
  • Natural gas fell 8.4 cents to close at $2.713 per 1,000 cubic feet.