Technology Companies and Retailers Lead U.S. Stocks Higher

(AP) -
stocks, markets, wall street
Traders work at the post where Walt Disney Co. stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Gains by technology companies helped send U.S. stocks higher in midday trading Thursday. Retailers also rose after the government said retail sales jumped in November. Health care stocks lagged the market.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1 point, or 0.1 percent, to 2,664 as of 11:39 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 19 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,604. The Nasdaq added 12 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,888. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,521.

THE QUOTE: “You’re seeing a bit more market action because of the overnight progress in the tax reform bill,” said Terry DuFrene, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

On Wednesday, GOP leaders in Congress reached an agreement on a proposed overhaul of the nation’s tax laws that would include a reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

YEAR-END BOOST: The Commerce Department said that sales at retailers and restaurants jumped 0.8 percent last month as people ramped up year-end spending. Sales in a category that mostly includes online shopping leapt 2.5 percent. Sales at electronics stores rose 2.1 percent, while furniture store sales increased 1.2 percent.

The report helped send retailers higher. Tiffany & Co. gained $3.39, or 3.5 percent, to $99.49, while Mattel added 46 cents, or 3 percent, to $16.05.

MICKEY’S FOX PLAY: Disney shares rose after the media giant said it is buying a large part of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion in stock. The transaction also includes approximately $13.7 billion in debt. Robert Iger will continue as Disney’s chairman and CEO through the end of 2021. Disney was up 45 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $108.06. Fox rose 73 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $33.48.

TECH TRADE: Technology stocks accounted for some of the biggest gains. Applied Materials rose 85 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $51.61.

PAINFUL MEDICINE: Teva Pharmaceuticals jumped 12.5 percent after the Israeli drugmaker said it would lay off 14,000 workers, or more than a quarter of its staff. The move is part of a global restructuring meant to salvage its ailing business. Its shares picked up $1.96 to $17.66.

UNDER THE WEATHER: Health care stocks declined broadly. Anthem shed $5.08, or 2.2 percent, to $226.98.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.36 percent from 2.35 percent late Wednesday.

ENERGY: Oil prices rose, reversing an early slide. Benchmark U.S. crude added 6 cents to $56.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 70 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $63.14 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.53 yen from 112.52 yen on Wednesday. The euro weakened to $1.1773 from $1.1820.

THE BITCOIN TRADE: Bitcoin futures were down on their fourth day of trading, dropping $205, or 1.2 percent, to $16,850 on the Cboe Futures Exchange. The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $16,509 in trading on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe were lower after the European Central Bank and the Bank of England opted to keep interest rates unchanged, as expected. Germany’s DAX was off 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.5 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi gave up 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent.