Stocks mixed as oil stays above $70
NEW YORK » Stocks closed mixed yesterday after earnings reports from General Motors Corp. and Merck Co. Inc. pushed the Dow Jones industrial average up to a six-year high while the Nasdaq composite sagged along with eBay Inc.
Dow component General Motors' stock gained 10 percent after the automaker reported record revenues along with its sixth straight quarterly loss. Drugmaker Merck & Co., also a Dow component, reported an 11 percent jump in first-quarter profit.
Google Inc.'s first-quarter earnings, reported after the close of regular trading, sent the stock sharply higher in after-hours trading and pointed to greater investor enthusiasm today.
In economic news, new applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 10,000 to 303,000, according to the Labor Department.
Oil futures retreated from record highs. A barrel of light crude hit a record high of $72.49 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange before falling to $71.95, down 22 cents from Wednesday's record closing price.
"The message this week is pretty simple: People are looking for an excuse to buy stocks rather than sell stocks," said Ryan Larson, equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. "A year ago, $70 oil would have been the death of us; today, the market is able to digest it and look for positives."
The Dow rose 64.12, or 0.57 percent, to 11,342.89. That was the blue chips' best close since it settled at 11,351.30 on Jan. 20, 2000.
Broader stock indicators were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.53, or 0.12 percent, to 1,311.46, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.33, or 0.35 percent, to 2,362.55.
The advances masked underlying weakness in the market. Declining issues led advancers by roughly 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bonds were lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 5.04 percent from 5.03 percent Wednesday. Gold prices were lower, retreating from 25-year highs.
Economic data continued to point to moderating growth. The Conference Board, a private research group, said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators slipped to 138.4 in March from 138.5 the previous month. The declines in the index, a closely watched gauge of future economic activity, followed four consecutive months of rising readings.
General Motors rose $2.07 to $22.64 after it reported a first-quarter loss of $323 million. While this was the company's sixth straight quarterly loss, the company did say its revenues rose 14 percent to a record $52.2 billion, up from $45.8 billion a year ago.