Stocks Climb, Led by Banks; Health Care Debate Continues

NEW YORK (AP) -
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(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

U.S. stocks are broadly higher on Thursday as banks recover some ground thanks to an upturn in bond yields, which will make lending money more profitable by forcing interest rates on loans higher. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, leads technology stocks lower as a number of companies say they will stop advertising on their social media because they don’t want their ads appearing alongside offensive videos.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,353 as of 1:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,721. The Nasdaq composite rose 8 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,830. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller companies, gained 13 points, or 1 percent, to 1,358.

Over the last two days, stocks have regained about a third of their steep loss from Tuesday. The S&P 500 rose as much as 10 points around midday, but the gains have faded somewhat in early afternoon trading as investors wait for more news about the fate of the Republican-backed health care bill, a centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s business-friendly agenda, which also includes cuts to taxes and regulations and greater infrastructure spending. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday, but it’s not clear if that will happen or if the bill will become law.

BONDS: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which has skidded over the last few days, rose to 2.41 percent from 2.40 percent. That modest increase gave banks and other financial companies a lift.

The S&P 500 banking index plunged 5 percent over the previous four days as bond yields and interest rates decreased. SunTrust Banks added 83 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $55.01; and Citigroup gained 34 cents to $58.11.

Alphabet lost $11.48, or 1.4 percent, to $838.32. Technology companies lagged the rest of the market, as Alphabet is the second-most valuable company on the S&P 500 after Apple.

RETAIL REBOUND: PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, jumped after its fourth-quarter profit and sales topped analyst estimates. It said sales for the Hilfiger brand grew in the latest quarter, and its business is doing well in spite of high discounts in the U.S. The stock gained $7.79, or 8.6 percent, to $98.64.

Discount retailer Five Below also climbed after it surpassed Wall Street projections in its fourth quarter. The stock rose $4.63, or 12.1 percent, to $42.76. Retailers have struggled in recent months, but consumer-focused companies did better than the broader market on Thursday. Nike, which plunged 7 percent one day earlier, recovered $1.40, or 2.6 percent, to $55.32.

HITTING REVERSE: Ford dipped after the automaker forecast a profit of 30 to 35 cents a share in the first quarter, far below the 47 cents per share analysts expected. Ford said its profit will decrease compared to last year because of higher costs for commodities, warranties, and business investments, and lower sales volumes. The stock fell 10 cents to $11.67.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil lost 19 cents to $47.85 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 3 cents to $50.67 a barrel in London.

HEALTHCARE VOTE: Congress is scheduled to vote on the American Health Care Act on Thursday, and Republican leaders are trying to hold together a coalition to pass the bill. Concessions being offered to the conservatives, who sought to limit requirements for health plans to offer certain benefits including substance abuse and maternity care, appeared to be scaring off moderate Republicans.

Health care stocks were slightly higher overall. Health insurance companies were little changed while companies that administer Medicaid programs stumbled, and hospital operators traded higher.

UNEMPLOYMENT: More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Labor Department, but applications are still at a low level that points to a healthy job market. Benefits applications rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the statistics suggest that relatively few Americans are losing their jobs.

CURRENCIES: The dollar inched up to 111 yen from 110.92 yen. The euro slid to $1.0783 from $1.0798.

OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX jumped 1.1 percent, and the CAC 40 in France rose 0.8 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 index added 0.2 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was flat, and the South Korean Kospi gained 0.2 percent.