Stocks close higher despite oil decline
NEW YORK » Wall Street ended a fractious session slightly higher yesterday after falling oil prices hurt energy stocks and overshadowed a stronger-than-expected productivity reading.
A Federal Reserve official's comments on interest rates also soured the market's early good mood. A robust sales forecast from Cisco Systems Inc. gave a boost to technology stocks, however.
The U.S. Labor Department's productivity figures for the fourth quarter were nearly double what had been expected, but failed to offset concerns about falling oil prices.
The productivity data initially seemed to overshadow comments from Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser that an improving economy might force the central bank to raise short-term interest rates. Plosser said the productivity gains were helping consumers but that it was too soon to declare the threat of inflation neutralized.
Despite indecision shown by the Dow Jones industrials, which were up for much of the day but ended essentially flat, stocks rose moderately overall. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 2.62 billion shares, compared with 2.63 billion Tuesday.
The Dow inched up 0.56, or less than 0.01 percent, to 12,666.87. The Dow moved past 12,700 for the first time, trading as high as 12,700.28. The previous trading record of 12,683.93 was set Friday.
Broader stock indicators showed more substantive gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.02, or 0.14 percent, to 1,450.02, and the tech-focused Nasdaq composite index, responding to Cisco's news, rose 19.01, or 0.77 percent, to 2,490.50.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies, which surpassed 800 for the first time last week, set a new closing and trading high of 816.20 after rising 5.79, or 0.71 percent. The previous closing high of 810.03 came yesterday while the earlier trading high, set Monday, was 810.49.
Bonds rose following the economic data, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.74 percent from 4.77 percent late Tuesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Light, sweet crude settled down $1.17 at $57.71 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had been up briefly after the U.S. Energy Department's weekly domestic inventory data showed a small decrease in crude stockpiles.
"Crude hasn't been able to get above $60 for three days so the energy names are weak," said Neil Massa, equity trader at John Hancock Funds.