Belfast Telegraph

US indexes make small gains led by energy stocks

US stock indexes made tiny gains on Monday as news of several corporate deals helped lift the market.

Energy stocks led the gainers as the price of crude oil rose for the fifth day in a row. Phone companies were the biggest laggard, while gold fell and the dollar weakened against the yen and the euro.

"There's not a lot of impetus to move markets today," said David Schiegoleit, managing director at the Private Client Reserve at US Bank. "The market is just biding time until we get more data."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 1.62 points, or 0.1%, to 2,357.16, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.92 points, or 0.01%, to 20,658.02, and the Nasdaq composite index added 3.11 points, or 0.1%, to 5,880.93.

Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.36% from 2.38% late on Friday.

The major indexes veered lower soon after the market opened on Monday, but moved into positive territory by midday. They spent much of the afternoon drifting between small gains and losses.

Trading was mostly quiet ahead of the Good Friday holiday, when US markets will be closed. No major economic reports are due this week, though the next cycle of company earnings reports kicks off on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of things coming up on the horizon, with earnings, Fed-speak and things like that," said Mr Schiegoleit. "In terms of everything else, the market is in a wait-and-see mode."

Several oil industry stocks got a boost from rising crude prices. Hess climbed 1.92 dollars, or 4%, to 49.97 dollars. Rig operator Transocean rose 32 cents, or 2.6%, to 12.75 dollars.

Benchmark crude oil closed higher for the fifth day in a row, adding 84 cents, or 1.6%, to 53.08 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 74 cents, or 1.3%, at 55.98 dollars a barrel in London.

Trucking companies Swift Transportation and Knight Transportation agreed to combine in an all-stock deal. Swift shareholders will own a majority of the company, which will be called Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings. Swift's shares added 4.75 dollars, or 23.7 % , to 24.77 dollars, while Knight gained 4.10 dollars, or 13.4 % , to 34.75 dollars.

Straight Path Communications more than doubled after the wireless spectrum licence company agreed to be acquired by AT&T in a deal valued at 1.25 billion dollars. Straight Path's shares gained 55.16 dollars, or 151.2%, to 91.64 dollars. AT&T slipped 21 cents to 40.38 dollars.

The whiff of a potential company sale also drew investors to buy up shares in Whole Foods Market.

The company's stock jumped 10% after Jana Partners bought an 8.8% stake in the supermarket chain. Three Jana employees plan to run for spots on the board and seek to launch a review of options for the company, including a potential sale. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, adding 3.10 dollars to 34.17 dollars.

A management change and brighter outlook helped lift Rent-A-Centre sharply higher.

The furniture and appliance rental company said Mark Speese, its founder and chairman, will return as chief executive. Mr Speese has been interim CEO for the last three months. Rent-A-Centre also issued an optimistic 2018 forecast. The stock climbed 69 cents, or 7.2%, to 10.29 dollars.

Major stock indexes overseas were mixed on Monday.

Germany's DAX inched down 0.2%, while France's CAC 40 lost 0.5%, and Britain's FTSE 100 was flat.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.7, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9%, South Korea's Kospi fell 0.9%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was steady.

In other energy trading, wholesale petrol gained 1 cent to 1.76 dollars a gallon, heating oil rose 2 cents to 1.65 dollars a gallon, and natural gas slid 2 cents to 3.24 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet.

Among metals, gold finished down 3.40 dollars at 1,253.90 dollars, silver lost 24 cents to 17.92 dollars an ounce, and copper declined 4 cents to 2.60 dollars a pound.

In currency trading, the dollar fell to 110.94 yen from 111.15 late on Friday. The euro strengthened to 1.0596 dollars from 1.0588.

AP

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