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Nasdaq notches new high as US stocks inch higher

Wall Street capped a subdued day of trading Tuesday with a tiny gain and another milestone.

After spending much of the day drifting between small gains and losses, US stock indexes closed slightly higher, nudging the Nasdaq composite to another high, eclipsing the record it set last Friday.

Consumer goods makers and technology companies rose. Energy companies fell along with the price of crude oil.

Investors continued to focus on the latest batch of company earnings and outlooks.

But traders also have an eye on politicians in Washington to gauge whether expectations of business-friendly policies, which helped fuel the market rally last autumn, will be fulfilled.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 37.87 points, or 0.2%, to 20,090.29.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.52 points, or 0.02%, to 2,293.08.

The Nasdaq gained 10.67 points, or 0.2%, to 5,674.22.

The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks fell 5.60 points, or 0.4%, to 1,361.06.

More stocks fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Several oil and gas companies slumped as crude prices fell.

Chevron fell the most among the 30 companies in the Dow, shedding 1.59 dollars, or 1.4%, to 111.39 dollars.

Other big energy decliners included Newfield Exploration, which slid 1.69 dollars, or 4.2%, to 39.02 dollars, and Murphy Oil, which gave up 1.14 dollars, or 3.9%, to 27.95 dollars.

Energy sector stocks were the best performers in 2016, riding a rebound in oil prices on the way to a gain of 23.7%. This year, though, the sector is off 5.1%, the second-biggest decliner behind phone companies.

Benchmark US crude slid 84 cents, or 1.6 % , to close at 52.17 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 67 cents, or 1.2 % , to close at 55.05 dollars a barrel in London.

Disappointing quarterly results or outlooks weighed down several stocks, including Michael Kors. The luxury retailer, which gave weak guidance for its current quarter and cut its estimates for the year, was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 index. The stock slumped 4.46 dollars, or 10.8%, to 36.82 dollars.

General Motors fell 4.7% after saying its earnings declined in the fourth quarter as costs increased. The stock gave up 1.73 dollars to 35.10 dollars.

Sabre tumbled 10.5% after the travel industry technology provider issued a forecast for 2017 that fell short of Wall Street's estimates. The stock shed 2.60 dollars to 22.21 dollars.

Traders bid up shares in companies that posted better-than-expected quarterly results, including health insurer Centene, which climbed 3.37 dollars, or 5.3%, to 67 dollars.

Emerson Electric gained 4.5%. The company, which makes process controls systems, valves and analytical instruments, also raised its estimates for the rest of the year. The stock rose 2.68 dollars to 62.54 dollars.

More than half of the companies in the S&P 500 index have reported quarterly results so far, and more than 60% have posted earnings that beat financial analysts' estimates, noted Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

"We haven't seen a lot of earnings growth in the past several quarters, so the market is excited to see that," Davidson said.

Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.39% from 2.41% late Monday.

AP

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