Belfast Telegraph

US stocks finish higher as energy sector rises

Stocks finished mostly higher in another cautious day of trading, as energy companies climbed in tandem with the price of oil while technology companies fell.

The market wavered between small gains and losses throughout the day.

Chemicals companies made the biggest gains, led by DuPont, while energy companies benefited from higher oil prices.

Health care stocks fell on more regulatory scrutiny of drug pricing, and the Nasdaq composite index fell for the fourth day in a row.

Trading has been light this week. Julian Emanuel, US equities and derivatives strategist for UBS, said investors are waiting to see the results of Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan policy meetings in the next few days.

The Fed is expected to leave interest rates unchanged, while the Bank of Japan could take new steps to stimulate Japan's economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 13.08 points, or 0.1%, at 17,990.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 3.91 points, or 0.2%, to 2,091.70. The Nasdaq fell 7.48 points, or 0.2%, to 4,888.31.

The price of benchmark US crude oil jumped 1.40 dollars (96p), or 3.3%, to 44.04 dollars (£30.45) per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 1.26 dollars (86p), or 2.8%, to 45.74 dollars (£31.63) a barrel in London.

That helped energy stocks, and ConocoPhillips rose 1.81 dollars (£1.25), or 3.9%, to 48.08 dollars (£33.25) while Pioneer Natural Resources gained 11.86 dollars (£8.20), or 7.7%, to 165.36 dollars (£114.36).

BP rose 1.70 dollars (£1.17), or 5.3%, to 33.49 dollars (£23.16) after it posted a larger-than-expected profit and it left its dividend unchanged, even though oil prices and energy income has plunged.

Earnings reports continued to stream in after the market closed for the day. Apple's first-quarter results disappointed investors as its sales fell for the first time in more than a decade and fell short of analysts' forecasts. Apple sank 6.20 dollars (£4.28), or 5.9%, to 98.15 dollars ( £67.88) in after-market trading.

Twitter's first-quarter revenue and its second-quarter forecast disappointed investors and its stock lost 1.90 dollars (£1.31), or 10.7%, to 15.85 dollars (£11) in after-hours trading.

Chemicals companies and makers of mining and construction equipment reported solid quarterly results. Emanuel of UBS said that energy, chemical and mining companies and heavy machinery makers are getting a hand from China's economy, which is doing better than investors expected a few months ago.

DuPont picked up 1.58 dollars (£1.09), or 2.4%, to 67.55 dollars (£46.71). The chemicals giant expects a larger profit for the year, saying the strong dollar will not hurt its results as much as it predicted. Dow Chemical, which is preparing to combine with DuPont, added 1.13 dollars (78p), or 2.2%, to 53.67 dollars (£37.11).

Truck leasing company Ryder System added 4.20 dollars (£2.90), or 6.4%, to 69.45 dollars (£48). Manufacturing company Ingersoll-Rand rose 1.36 dollars (94p), or 2.1%, to 65.39 dollars £45.22). Truck maker Paccar gained 2.88 dollars (£1.99), or 5.1%, to 58.93 dollars (£40.75).

Telecommunications companies, one of the best performing parts of the market this year, also fell. The stocks traded lower as bond prices fell and yields rose, making them more attractive to income-seeking investors compared to telecom stocks.

Meanwhile, drug companies fell as investors looked ahead to the latest Congressional panel on drug prices.