U.S. Stocks Mixed As Consumer-Company Gains Offset Oil Drop

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks were little changed Thursday as gains in consumer-focused stocks offset a slide in energy companies.
         Oil and gas stocks dropped as crude fell on reports of abundant supplies. A rise in consumer stocks was led by Priceline after the online booking company turned in better-than-forecast earnings.
 
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose one point or 0.1 percent, to 2,100 as of 12:09 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,061. The Nasdaq rose 18 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,924.
 
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 90 cents to $51.97 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 38 cents to $60.17 a barrel.
 
THE NEGOTIATOR: Priceline was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500. The stock jumped $90, or 8.1 percent, to $1,213 as an increase in bookings helped the online travel company beat analysts' expectations.
 
GREECE SENDS REQUEST: Greece's government asked to extend its rescue loan agreement by six months in order to give it and the eurozone more time to hash out a longer permanent deal. However, Greece held back on offering to extend a series of budget cuts and reforms that the eurozone has required since 2010 in exchange for loans. Greece says that the measures have devastated its economy. The 19 finance ministers of the eurozone will meet Friday to discuss the proposals.
 
THE QUOTE: Despite the ongoing drama around Greece, investors have remained calm and European stock markets have climbed strongly this year. Instead of worrying about the implications of a Greek exit from the euro, investors have focused on signs that the region's economy is recovering from its latest slump. Germany's DAX is up almost 14 percent in 2015, while France's CAC-40 index is up 11 percent.
         Still, not all are convinced. Michael Scanlon, senior investment analyst at John Hancock Asset Management, says investors are being complacent about the risks posed by Greece.
         "Right, now Greece is the biggest risk to the market," said Scanlon. "The market is overlooking the level of stress associated with that situation. The situation in Greece will get worse before it gets better."
 
THE YEAR SO FAR: The S&P 500 is up 5.2 percent in February, rebounding from a January slump. If the index holds those gains it will be the best monthly performance since October 2011. Stocks have risen as reports have showed hiring has improved in the U.S. and investors have become more confident about the outlook for global growth.
 
EUROPE'S DAY: The main stock market in Athens rose 1.1 percent. Germany's DAX climbed 0.2 percent. The CAC-40 in France was 0.6 percent higher, while the FTSE 100 index of leading British share dropped 0.1 percent.
 
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: In government bond trading prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year government was at 2.08 percent.
         The U.S. dollar was little changed against the Japanese yen, trading at 118.97 yen on Thursday. The dollar edged up against the euro, pushing the currency down to $1.1383 from $1.1399.
         – by AP Reporter Steve Rothwell

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