Belfast Telegraph

Rising energy stocks help drive Standard & Poor's 500 to record level

A spurt in oil prices has revived US energy stocks, which had been among the year's worst performers, and helped push the broader market back to record highs.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 11.42 points, or 0.5%, to 2,402.32, edging past its previous record set last week.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 85.33 points, or 0.4%, to 20,981.94, the Nasdaq composite gained 28.44, or 0.5%, to 6,149.67, and the Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks rose 11.15 points, or 0.8%, to 1,393.92.

Energy stocks led the way after the price of oil jumped on expectations that the global glut of crude could ease.

A wide group of oil-producing countries has already cut production in hopes of supporting the price of oil, and Russia and Saudi Arabia said they want to extend the cuts through the first three months of 2018.

Benchmark US crude rose 1.01 dollars, or 2.1%, to settle at 48.85 dollars per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 98 cents to 51.82 dollars a barrel.

The price of oil has swung sharply in recent years, from more than 100 dollars three years ago to less than 30 dollars last year, as concerns wax and wane that supplies will overwhelm demand.

Monday's rise for crude helped oilfield services provider Halliburton jump 1.37 dollars, or 3%, to 46.51 dollars for one of Monday's biggest gains in the S&P 500. Energy companies across the index rose 0.6%.

Companies that produce metals and other basic materials, along with financial stocks, were also strong.

The day's rally continued a calm push higher for stocks in recent weeks. Markets around the world have been making modest, methodical gains as investors shrug off a long list of potential concerns.

South Korean stocks rose even after North Korea launched a missile over the weekend and its leader promised more missile tests. The worldwide "ransomware" cyberattack continued to spread on Monday, which sent cybersecurity stocks like FireEye and Symantec higher, while politicians in Washington wonder whether Republicans' odds of implementing tax cuts and other pro-business policies have diminished.

For the most part, signs of a strengthening global economy and improving corporate profits have been enough to allay investors' fears and push markets to new heights. Profits have been rallying not only in the US but also in Europe and other areas that have been struggling for years.

The recent run of calmness is a sharp turnaround from the start of last year, when twitchy investors were quick to sell on worries about the global economy.

"We do really see this prevailing sense of complacency," said Jon Adams, senior investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management. "I don't think we see any dark clouds on the horizon, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a 5% to 10% drawdown from now to year-end."

Mr Adams expects corporate profits to keep improving, which should help support stocks, but he pointed to several events that could jolt markets. Besides the uncertainty about what will happen on the Korean peninsula or in Washington, upcoming elections in the UK, France and potentially Italy could also upset what has become a lazy ride for markets.

In Europe, France's Cac 40 rose 0.2%, Germany's DAX index gained 0.3%, and the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.3%.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index slipped 0.1%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 0.9%, while South Korea's Kospi index rose 0.2%.

In the commodities markets, the price of gold rose 2.30 dollars to settle at 1,230 dollars per ounce, silver rose 20 cents to 16.60 dollars per ounce, and copper gained nearly 2 cents to 2.54 dollars per pound.

Natural gas fell 8 cents to 3.35 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil rose 2 cents to 1.51 dollars per gallon and wholesale petrol climbed 2 cents to 1.60 dollars per gallon.

The euro rose to 1.0978 dollars from 1.0924 dollars late on Friday. The dollar rose to 113.68 Japanese yen from 113.41 yen, and the pound rose to 1.2895 dollars from 1.2879 dollars.

The 10-year Treasury yield ticked up to 2.34% from 2.33% late on Friday. The two-year yield rose to 1.30% from 1.29%, while the 30-year yield rose to 3.01% from 2.99%.


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