Stocks Mostly Higher in Afternoon Trading; Oil Up

(AP) -
Wall Street, stocks, markets
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Energy companies led U.S. stock indexes mostly higher in afternoon trading Wednesday as crude oil prices rose. Banks and other financial stocks fell the most as bond yields headed lower. Investors had their eye on the latest company earnings and economic news. New data showed that more people signed contracts to buy U.S. homes last month.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,361 as of 2:48 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 25 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,675. The Nasdaq composite index gained 22 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,897. The Dow has fallen for eight of the last nine days. Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

THE QUOTE: “It’s sort of a yawn today in the market,” said Jeff Zipper, managing director at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. “It’s really a wait-and-see with the focus back on Washington and tax reform.”

EYES ON TRUMP: Investors are hoping that Congress and the White House will enact tax cuts and other business-friendly policy proposals promised by President Donald Trump during his campaign. The expectations helped lift the market in the weeks after the election last November. But some of that investor optimism dimmed in recent weeks after the Trump administration’s bid to pass a bill intended to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act failed to win enough votes.

WELL BUILT: RH, formerly Restoration Hardware, climbed 16 percent a day after the home furnishings and decor retailer reported stronger earnings. It added $6.08 to $44.08.

DEAL TIME: Exar surged 22.3 percent after MaxLinear agreed to buy the chipmaker for $13 per share, or $662 million. Shares in Exar gained $2.37 to $12.99. MaxLinear rose $1.55, or 5.8 percent, to $28.06.

STRONG QUARTER: Verint Systems jumped 8.9 percent after the software company reported better-than-expected quarterly results. Verint also said during a management conference call with analysts that it is possible that at some point it will split itself into two businesses, but noted it has no plans now to do that. Verint shares rose $3.53 to $43.08.

BAD MEDICINE: Depomed slid 2.6 percent after the drug maker issued disappointing first-quarter sales guidance and replaced its CEO and two board members to resolve a dispute with investment firm Starboard Value. The stock dipped 37 cents to $13.85.

NO FUN: Dave & Buster’s Entertainment fell 3.4 percent after the arcade and restaurant chain announced disappointing sales at older locations. The stock gave up $2.14 to $60.05.

HOME SWEET HOME: The National Association of Realtors said more people signed contracts to buy U.S. homes last month as warm weather and rising confidence appeared to encourage consumers to look for houses. The NAR’s pending home sales index climbed 5.5 percent in sFebruary to 112.3, its highest point since April and its second-highest point since 2006.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX climbed 0.4 percent, while France’s CAC 40 added 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.4 percent as Britain triggered the start of its exit from the European Union, a formal step that kicks off two years of negotiations that will have wide-ranging consequences for business in the region. Earlier in Asia, Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged up 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9 percent to 5,873.50.

CURRENCIES. The dollar weakened to 111.07 yen from 111.09 yen. The euro fell to $1.0759 from $1.0808.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures rose $1.14, or 2.4 percent, to close at $49.51 a barrel in New York. The contract rose 64 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed $1.09, or 2.1 percent, to close at $52.42 a barrel in London. Natural gas added 8 cents to $3.18 per 1,000 cubic feet, wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to $1.67 per gallon and heating oil gained 3 cents to $1.54 per gallon.

TREASURY YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.39 percent from 2.42 percent.

METALS: The price of gold slipped $1.90 to settle at $1,253.70 an ounce. Silver held steady at $18.25 per ounce. Copper was little changed at $2.68 per pound.