Technology, Energy Help Stocks Sustain Strong Start to 2018


Big gains for technology and health care companies helped U.S. stocks set records again Wednesday. Rising crude and heating oil prices also sent energy companies higher.

Chipmakers including Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices made big gains while Intel skidded following news that its processors have a security flaw that could slow down computers. Energy company Scana, which plunged after it canceled a $9 billion nuclear project and started raising rates to cover its costs, jumped after Dominion Energy agreed to buy it for $7.9 billion in stock.

Energy companies jumped for the second day in a row as oil prices, already at two-and-a-half-year highs, rose again. One reason is that after a pipeline bombing in Libya last month and ongoing anti-government protests in Iran, investors are concerned oil supplies will get interrupted.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 17.25 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,713.06. The Dow Jones industrial average added 98.67 points, or 0.4 percent, to 24,922.68. The Nasdaq composite climbed 58.63 points, or 0.8 percent, to 7,065.53. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 2.56 points, or 0.2 percent, 1,552.58. All four finished at record highs.

Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.26, or 2.1 percent, to $61.63 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up $1.27, or 1.8 percent, to $67.84 a barrel in London.

Heating oil and natural gas prices have also climbed as severe cold gripped much of the U.S. Heating oil rose 3 cents to $2.09 a gallon, and it’s up 12 cents since Dec. 22. Natural gas slid 5 cents to $3.01 per 1,000 cubic feet, and it’s up 34 cents over that time.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline added 3 cents to $1.80 a gallon.

Technology companies rose further. Chipmaker Nvidia gained $13.12, or 6.6 percent, to $212.47. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, climbed $18.31, or 1.7 percent, to $1,091.52. IBM added $4.24, or 2.7 percent, to $158.49.

Dominion Energy agreed to buy Scana in a deal that expands the Richmond, Virginia-based company’s business in the Carolinas. Dominion Energy is valuing the deal at about $7.9 billion plus $6.7 billion in debt. Scana soared $8.78, or 22.6 percent, to $47.65 and Dominion dropped $3.09, or 3.8 percent, to $77.19.

Scana traded above $70 a share in June but plunged after Scana and partner Santee Cooper said they were abandoning construction of two nuclear reactors. They blamed the project failure on the bankruptcy of contractor Westinghouse.

Consumer products company Spectrum Brands said it will try to sell its batteries and appliances businesses. Spectrum, which makes Rayovac and Kwikset, wants to concentrate on its other divisions: hardware and home improvement, global auto care, global pet supplies and home and garden. The stock climbed $9.58, or 8.8 percent, to $118.94.

Bond prices rose after a sharp drop the day before. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.45 percent from 2.46 percent.

Gold inched up $2.40 to $1,318.50 an ounce. Silver added 6 cents to $17.27 an ounce. Copper slipped 2 cents to $3.26 a pound.

The dollar rose to 112.52 yen from 112.27 yen. The euro dipped to $1.2018 from $1.2055.

Germany’s DAX added 0.8 percent and so did the French CAC 40. In Britain the FTSE 100 rose 0.3 percent.

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