Belfast Telegraph

US stocks barely move as bull market marks eighth anniversary

US stocks meandered on Thursday as the eighth anniversary for the current bull market turned out to be a quiet one.

Large-company stocks finished mostly higher, but declines in smaller stocks across the board meant that more companies fell than rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

The market started out with small gains, then dipped in the early afternoon. Thanks to late gains for energy companies, major indexes turned higher near the end of trading.

Industrial companies dipped as heavy machinery maker Caterpillar continues to slide. Health care companies climbed and banks rose along with bond yields. Trading was light following a three-day losing streak.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up 1.89 points, or 0.1%, to 2,364.87 on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 2.46 points to 20,858.19. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.25 points to 5,838.81. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks lost 5.92 points, or 0.4%, to 1,360.12. More than two-thirds of the stocks on the NYSE ended lower.

The S&P 500 is up 250% since March 9 2009, when it bottomed out in the depths of the financial crisis. The current bull run is the second longest since the Second World War and it may have a while to go, as wages are growing and hiring appears to be on the rise.

"Bull markets typically don't die of old age," said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas. "They typically die because there's a downturn in the economy."

Mr Lefkowitz said there are few signs that will happen any time soon. While the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates next week, inflation remains low and he said the Fed's actions should not stifle economic growth.

"The key question is how quickly does inflation continue to rise from here and how aggressive does the Fed need to get," he said.

Health care companies made the biggest gains. The leaders included Johnson & Johnson, which rose 1.85 dollars, or 1.5%, to 125.95 dollars. Cancer drug maker Celgene added 2.09 dollars, or 1.7%, to 125.13 dollars while medical device maker Edwards Lifesciences contributed 3.53 dollars, or 3.9%, to 93.06 dollars.

Crude oil prices continued to slip after the US government reported a huge build-up in fuel stockpiles on Wednesday. Oil is now trading at its lowest price since November, before OPEC countries agreed to reduce production in an effort to shore up prices.

Benchmark US oil fell 1 dollar, or 2%, to 49.28 dollars a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 92 cents, or 1.7%, to 52.19 dollars a barrel in London. Energy companies lost ground early in the day but jumped in the final hour of trading.

Bond prices fell further. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.60%, near its highest level in the past year, from 2.56%. Banks and other financial firms moved up. Wells Fargo added 49 cents to 58.70 dollars and Intercontinental Exchange picked up 67 cents, or 1.1%, to 60.06 dollars.

Caterpillar fell another 1.84 dollars, or 2%, to 91.39 dollars as the government investigates the company's taxes and accounting. The stock is down almost 8% since March 1. Elsewhere, American Airlines led airlines lower after it reported weak February traffic. It lost 1.56 dollars, or 3.5%, to 43.33 dollars.

Sears Holdings rose 52 cents, or 6.9%, to 8.01 dollars after the company took a smaller adjusted loss than it did a year ago. Investors were also pleased the struggling chain kept its inventory and expenses under control. Signet Jewelers said it will spend more money on technology as it closes mall-based stores, and its stock rose 5.62 dollars, or 8.7%, to 70.02 dollars.

Office supply company Staples reported fourth-quarter sales that were far weaker than analysts expected and the company said it will close another 70 stores in North America. The stock gave up 47 cents, or 5.2%, to 8.49 dollars.

Tailored Brands, the parent of Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, plunged 7.53 dollars, or 32.2%, to 15.84 dollars. The company disclosed a bigger loss than expected along with disappointing sales. The company also said it wants to rework an agreement with Macy's, as its tuxedo shops inside Macy's stores are struggling.

The dollar rose to 114.74 yen from 114.42 yen. The euro rose to 1.0586 dollars from 1.0548 dollars.