US stocks move barely higher as oil prices jump


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are inching higher Wednesday as a big increase in the price of oil gives energy companies a lift. Investors are selling traditionally safe stocks like utility and household goods companies. A survey showed that hiring by private companies continued at a solid but unspectacular clip in July.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 5 points to 18,318 as of 2:58 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 2 points to 2,158. The Nasdaq composite rose 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,148. The Dow is on pace to break a seven-day losing streak.

ENERGY: The U.S. government said stockpiles of gasoline shrank by more than 3 million barrels last week. S&P Global Platts said that was more than expected, and that total oil production also decreased. That helped oil bounce back from the slump that’s taken it from $50 a barrel down to around $40.

Benchmark U.S. crude added $1.32, or 3.3 percent, to $40.83 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose $1.30, or 3.1 percent, to $43.10 a barrel in London.

Williams Cos. rose $1.51, or 6.3 percent, to $25.47 and Devon Energy gained $1.77, or 4.9 percent, to $37.89.

THE QUOTE: “Demand worldwide looks to have held fairly steady,” said Mike Baele, senior portfolio manager with the private client reserve group at U.S. Bank. Baele said he thinks oil will stay between $40 and $50 a barrel for the rest of the year. That’s less than half its price in mid-2014, but a big improvement from early this year, when oil traded as low as $26.21 a barrel.

HIRING: A survey by ADP said that private U.S. payrolls grew by 179,000 in July as companies like retailers and shipping firms brought on more workers. The total suggests employers continue to hire new workers and at a faster pace than they were this spring, when hiring slowed sharply, but growth has been sluggish this year.

“So much of this recovery could be correctly categorized as slow but steady,” said Baele.

The federal government will release a report Friday that includes hiring by governments as well as private companies. Experts think it will show a gain of 175,000 jobs.

BANK SHOT: Financial stocks also traded higher. Insurance company AIG jumped $3.89, or 7.2 percent, to $58.03 following a strong second-quarter report. Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange and other stock markets, said it will split its stock 5-for-1 and buy back $1 billion in shares. Its stock rose $13.07, or 5 percent, to $277.01.

BAGGED: Kate Spade skidded $3.82, or 19 percent, to $16.32 after the clothing, handbag and accessories company disclosed weak results and lowered its estimates for the year. The company said travelers aren’t spending as much money at stores that depend on shopping by tourists.

CROCS ROCKED: Footwear maker Crocs plunged. It reported a smaller-than-expected profit in the second quarter and its sales fell $25 million short of estimates. It’s projecting a bigger shortfall in the current quarter, and Crocs said it expects overall revenue to shrink this year. The stock gave up $2.48, or 22.5 percent, to $8.52.

GOING FOR A JOG: Fitness tracker maker Fitbit rebounded after its quarterly results came in stronger than expected. The stock rose $1.84, or 14 percent, to $15. The stock is still down about 50 percent this year. Fitbit went public in June 2015 with an IPO that priced at $20 a share and was trading around $50 per share a year ago.

ETSY EARNINGS: Etsy climbed $1.03, or 8.1 percent, to $13.74. The online crafts marketplace said sales were better than expected and raised its sales and other projections for the year.

POKEMON POWER: Zagg, a mobile device accessory company that bought smartphone charger company Mophie earlier this year, reported an unexpected profit and sales that were stronger than estimates. Among other factors, it said the “Pokemon Go” craze boosted its sales as players needed to recharge their phones more often. The stock rose 65 cents, or 10.2 percent, to $7.01.

METALS: Gold fell $8.30 to $1,356.10 an ounce. Silver fell 23 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $20.47 an ounce. Copper lost 1 cent to $2.20 a pound.

OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Gasoline rose 4 cents to $1.35 a gallon. Heating oil added 3 cents to $1.29 a gallon. Natural gas gained 11 cents to $2.84 per 1,000 cubic feet.

HANES DOWN: Underwear, t-shirt and sock maker Hanesbrands reported disappointing results, and its shares lost 43 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $25.22.

OVERSEAS: France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.2 percent, as did the FTSE 100 in Britain. Germany’s DAX picked up 0.3 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.9 percent and South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 1.8 percent. Japanese stocks have been slipping because the country’s recently-announced stimulus package, worth around $272 billion, fell short of expectations. Much of the money is already in the pipeline. Meanwhile a strong yen is also deepening pessimism over prospects for Japan’s recovery.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices inched higher and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.54 percent from 1.56 percent. The dollar rose to 101.19 yen from 100.88 yen. The euro fell to $1.1144 from $1.1227.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay

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