Stocks Edge Higher, Led by Gains in Technology

(AP) -
Mathias Roberts, right, reaches out to a fellow trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Mathias Roberts, right, reaches out to a fellow trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

U.S. stocks were mostly higher in midday trading Tuesday, with health-care and technology companies among the biggest gainers. Another slide in crude-oil prices pulled down energy stocks. Investors also had their eye on corporate earnings, which are just starting to trickle out.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost one point to 16,397 as of 12:20 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose one point to 1,924. The Nasdaq composite climbed 16 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,654. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, has fallen for the past eight trading days.

THE QUOTE: “You’re seeing very oversold conditions,” said Phil Blancato, CEO of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management. “People here are basically buying the dip.”

ROUGH START: Deepening fears about a protracted slowdown in China’s economy coupled with worries about Beijing’s ability to manage its financial markets have kept investors on edge after sharp losses last week. A steep downturn in crude-oil prices has also weighed on the market. The three major U.S. stock indexes are all down for the year, with the Dow and S&P 500 index off about 5 percent, while the Nasdaq is down 6 percent.

SECTOR VIEW: Six of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index moved lower, with energy stocks down the most. Health-care stocks notched the biggest gain.

HEALTHY GAINS: Health-insurance companies were among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500 index. Anthem rose $6.45, or 5 percent, to $134.81, while Aetna added $3.55, or 3.4 percent, to $108.62.

HOLIDAY BOOST: Lululemon Athletica vaulted 6.9 percent after the athletic-clothing retailer raised its earnings guidance citing strong sales during the year-end shopping season. The stock rose $3.81 to $58.54.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Alcoa sank 9.1 percent after the aluminum manufacturer’s latest quarterly results included revenue that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations. The stock dropped 72 cents to $7.28.

OIL DRAG: Energy and mining companies were trading lower as oil prices continued to decline. Freeport-McMoRan lost 49 cents, or 11.4 percent, to $3.82. Consol Energy shed $2.03, or 10.9 percent, to $16.66. Chesapeake Energy fell 30 cents, or 7.3 percent, to $3.87.

OVERSEAS: European markets moved higher. Germany’s DAX was up 2 percent, while the CAC-40 in France rose 1.9 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 1.2 percent. In Asia, China’s Shanghai composite closed 0.2 percent higher, recovering some of its losses from the day before. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 2.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.9 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.2 percent.

YUAN MOVES: China’s tightly controlled onshore currency, which was the source of last week’s market turmoil after authorities guided it sharply lower, was little-changed. However, interbank rates spiked for the offshore yuan, which is freely traded in Hong Kong, leading many to believe China’s central bank is intervening in the market in order to foil speculators trying to drive it lower.

ENERGY: A day after slumping 5.3 percent, the price of U.S. crude oil slipped another $1.15, or 3.7 percent, to $30.26 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell $1, or 3.1 percent, to $30.88 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.12 percent from 2.17 percent late Monday. The euro fell to $1.0825 from $1.0871 a day earlier and the dollar rose to 117.78 yen from 117.53 yen.