U.S. Stocks Edge Higher As Airlines, Railroads And Banks Jump

NEW YORK (AP) – Big gains for banks and transportation companies like airlines and railroads took U.S. stock indexes slightly higher Wednesday. Other parts of the market didn’t move much.
United Continental had its best day in two years after it said strong demand is resulting in higher ticket prices, while railroad company CSX said it’s still cutting costs and improving operations. Their competitors also jumped.

Banks and other financial companies got a boost from strong second-quarter results, and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway made its biggest gain in almost seven years after it loosened its rules on stock buybacks.

The S&P 500 index rose 6.07 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,815.62. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 79.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,199.29. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.67 points to 7,854.44. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 4.61 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,691.87.

Stocks have been rising this month, despite trade tensions, as investors anticipate solid second-quarter earnings reports from U.S. companies. The S&P 500 is up 3.6 percent so far in July.

United Continental surpassed Wall Street projections and said strong demand is resulting in higher prices as the summer travel season sets in. Its stock surged 8.8 percent to $79.

CSX said its profit climbed 72 percent in its latest quarter as it kept cutting costs and improving its operations. The results were stronger than analysts expected and the stock added 7.1 percent to $69.

Maintenance supply company W.W. Grainger made the biggest gain on the S&P 500 after it blew past analysts’ estimates in the latest quarter. The stock jumped 11.2 percent to $338.99.

Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that owns GEICO and other insurance companies, jumped as investors hoped it would give some of that money back to shareholders by buying back its own stock. The company had $108 billion in cash and short-term investments as of March.

Berkshire’s Class B shares jumped 5.3 percent to $200.44 in heavy trading. Other financial companies including Morgan Stanley, M&T Bank and Northern Trust climbed after their quarterly reports.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell wrapped up his testimony to Congress about economic and monetary policy. He said the trade war with China might make inflation speed up, but continued to express a very positive view of the state of the economy overall.

Bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.88 percent from 2.86 percent. That sent big-dividend stocks like household goods companies and utilities lower.

Benchmark U.S. crude recovered from an early loss and rose 1 percent to $68.76 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 1 percent to settle at $72.90 a barrel in London. U.S. crude has tumbled 8 percent in July but is still up 42 percent over the last 12 months.

Wholesale gasoline climbed 0.9 percent to $2.04 a gallon. Heating oil gained 1 percent to $2.09 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.7 percent to $2.72 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold was little changed and closed at $1,227.90 an ounce. Silver fell 0.3 percent to $15.57 an ounce. Copper rose 0.5 percent to $2.76 a pound.

The dollar inched up to 112.83 yen from 112.83 yen.