U.S. Stock Indexes Drift Mostly Lower as Oil Prices Sink 

NEW YORK (AP) -

U.S. stocks drifted to a slightly lower finish on Thursday, weighed down by falling energy stocks as the slump in oil prices deepened.

Chevron and Exxon Mobil were among the biggest decliners in the DowJones industrial average, which eased back from its latest all-time high. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index also slipped below its record high set earlier this week. The Nasdaq composite bucked the trend, creeping within 61 points of its dot-com era record close.

Expectations of rising oil supplies sent the price of crude to its lowest level in nearly a month. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell $2.82 to close at $48.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Investors also had to sort through a mix of corporate earnings and U.S. economic reports.

The Dow ended down 10.15 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,214.42. Among individual Dow members, Chevron lost $1.52, or 1.4 percent, to $107.06 while Exxon Mobil slid 95 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $88.65.

The S&P 500 index slipped 3.12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,110.74. The Nasdaq gained 20.75 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,987.89.

The three indexes are all up for the year.

The Dow and S&P 500 opened lower on Thursday and held that course most of the day, while the Nasdaq gradually moved higher. The market’s trajectory took shape early on, as traders pored over corporate earnings and economic news.

The Commerce Department reported that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods rose 2.8 percent in January, the biggest increase since July. The Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, the most in six weeks.

The consumer price index, a measure of inflation, is closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it looks to begin raising its benchmark interest rates.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, the Labor Department’s consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in January. Over the past year, those “core” prices have increased just 1.6 percent. That’s below the 2 percent benchmark the Federal Reserve considers optimal for a healthy economy.

Six of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 ended lower, with energy stocks declining 1.8 percent, the biggest drop in the index. The sector is now down 1.2 percent this year. Technology stocks led the gainers. They are up 3.9 percent this year.

Several oil drilling companies fell sharply. Ensco slid $2.17, or 8.2 percent, to $24.31, while Noble shed $2.49, or 5 percent, to $47.32. Newfield Exploration ended down $2.40, or 6.7 percent, at $33.60.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.58 to close at $60.05 in London.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline fell 1.1 cents to close at $1.708 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3.2 cents to close at $2.136 a gallon. And natural gas fell 16.5 cents to close at $2.697 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Precious and industrial metals futures ended higher. Gold rose $8.60 to $1,210.10 an ounce, silver rose 15 cents to $16.58 an ounce and copper rose five cents to $2.71 a pound. U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.03 percent from 1.97 percent late Wednesday.