Belfast Telegraph

Lift in oil prices helps US stocks to continue ticking over

US stocks again ticked higher on Thursday as the continuing rebound in oil prices gave energy companies a lift.

The dollar weakened further, however, and compared to the yen it is at its lowest in almost three years.

Stocks wobbled in the early part of the day but energy companies were a standout as the price of US oil reached its highest level since the beginning of July. The market turned higher in the afternoon.

Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist for LPL Financial, said the US market tends to be calm in August and trading volume is usually low.

Lower trading volume means surprising events can cause big swings for stocks but, so far, it has made this month the opposite of January and early February, when stocks tumbled and the markets were rattled.

"We had record volatility to start the year and these things do tend to revert," he said. "It's amazing how quickly things change."

The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 23.76 points, or 0.1%, to 18,597.70.

The Standard & Poor's 500 added 4.80 points, or 0.2%, to 2,187.02. The Nasdaq composite rose 11.49 points, or 0.2%, to 5,240.15.

Benchmark US crude gained 1.43 US dollars (£1.08), or 3.1%, to 48.22 dollars (£36.62) a barrel in New York.

Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 1.04 dollars (78p), or 2.1%, to 50.89 dollars (£38.64) a barrel in London.

That gave energy companies a lift and Marathon Oil rose 98 cents (74p), or 6.2%, to 16.68 dollars (£12.66) while Devon Energy gained 1.45 dollars (£1.10), or 3.3%, to 44.76 dollars (£34).

Oil prices have rallied over the last two weeks but they have essentially remained between 40 dollars (£30.37) and 50 dollars (£37.96) a barrel for the last four months.

After oil traded as low as 26.21 dollars (£19.91) a barrel in February, that relative stability has boosted energy company stocks.

The dollar fell to 99.98 yen, its lowest level since October 2013. The dollar was worth about 120 yen at the start of the year and it has been gradually weakening.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest meeting, which investors took as new confirmation the Fed is in no hurry to raise interest rates again.

Wal-Mart Stores climbed 1.37 dollars (£1.04), or 1.9%, to 74.30 dollars (£56.44).

The world's largest retailer raised its annual estimates after reporting strong results for the second quarter.

Internet gear maker Cisco Systems reported unimpressive quarterly results and said it will lay off 5,500 employees, or about seven per cent of its staff.

The company had already cut about 10,000 jobs over the last few years and it joins companies like Microsoft, Intel and HP in eliminating jobs and overhauling its product lines. Its stock lost 24 cents (18p) to 30.48 dollars (£23.15).