Re­tail­ers, en­ergy firms lead stocks higher

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­ley Jay The As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW YORK » U.S. stock in­dexes fin­ished with tiny gains Wed­nes­day as re­tail­ers jumped af­ter a strong hir­ing fore­cast from Tar­get and en­ergy com­pa­nies rose along with oil prices.

Com­pa­nies that sell ev­ery­thing from cloth­ing to elec­tron­ics rose af­ter Tar­get said it will hire 100,000 work­ers for the hol­i­day sea­son, about 30,000 more than it did a year ago. En­ergy com­pa­nies rose af­ter the U.S. gov­ern­ment said oil and gaso­line stock­piles shrank last week. Those gains were al­most can­celed out as tech­nol­ogy and health care com­pa­nies, which have led the mar­ket higher this year, slipped.

With stocks at record highs, in­vestors hunted for bar­gains. Re­tail­ers and en­ergy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies have all strug­gled this year and fin­ished higher Wed­nes­day.

One rea­son stocks may have held steady: the Fed­eral Re­serve will meet next week, and along with the usual ques­tions about in­ter­est rates and the Fed’s bal­ance sheet, in­vestors are won­der­ing about the cen­tral bank’s lead­er­ship. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s four-year term will end in Fe­bru­ary and it’s not clear if Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will re-ap­point her or re­place her.

“There are fac­tions of the Fed, as well as po­ten­tial Fed chair can­di­dates, that are less fo­cused on mar­ket re­ac­tions and will be more fo­cused on the need to raise rates from their cur­rent lev­els to off­set a fu­ture re­ces­sion,” said Eric Freed­man, chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer for U.S. Bank Wealth Man­age­ment.

Freed­man said Yellen has made a pri­or­ity of in­form­ing Wall Street about the Fed’s plans and tak­ing in­vestor re­ac­tions into ac­count. A dif­fer­ent Fed chair might not do that, which could lead to a bumpier ride for stocks.

The Stan­dard & Poor’s 500 in­dex added 1.89 points, or 0.1 per­cent, to 2,498.37. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age picked up 39.32 points, or 0.2 per­cent, to 22,158.18. The Nas­daq com­pos­ite rose 5.91 points, or 0.1 per­cent, to 6,460.19. The Rus­sell 2000 in­dex of smaller-com­pany stocks gained 3.43 points, or 0.2 per­cent, to 1,426.89.

Tar­get said it plans to hire 100,000 work­ers for the hol­i­days, some 30,000 more than it hired a year ago. Its stock climbed $1.62, or 2.8 per­cent, to $59.51. Best Buy rose $1.81, or 3.2 per­cent, to $58.60 and Gap gained 61 cents, or 2.2 per­cent, to $28.22. Video game seller GameS­top added 49 cents, or 2.5 per­cent, to $20.02 and rose $17.02, or 1.7 per­cent, to $999.60.

De­part­ment store chain Nord­strom climbed af­ter CNBC re­ported that the Nord­strom fam­ily is close to a deal to take the com­pany pri­vate. The stock has risen over the last three months fol­low­ing talk that com­pany ex­ec­u­tives and other de­scen­dants of co-founder John Nord­strom might buy the 70 per­cent of the com­pany they don’t al­ready own. The stock gained $2.69 cents, or 6 per­cent, to $47.74.

Hard drive maker Western Dig­i­tal slumped $3.04, or 3.4 per­cent, to $85.74 af­ter its part­ner Toshiba said it will sell its com­puter mem­ory busi­ness to a con­sor­tium led by Bain Cap­i­tal Pri­vate Eq­uity. Western Dig­i­tal wants to buy that busi­ness and has filed a law­suit to stop Toshiba from sell­ing it to any­one else. Toshiba is try­ing to off­set losses by its West­ing­house Elec­tric nu­clear busi­ness, which filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in March.

En­ergy com­pa­nies rose as bench­mark U.S. crude rose $1.07, or 2.2 per­cent, to $49.30 a bar­rel in New York. Brent crude, used to price in­ter­na­tional oils, added 89 cents, or 1.6 per­cent, to $55.16 a bar­rel in Lon­don.

Credit bureau Equifax hit an 18-month low in heavy trad­ing. The com­pany dis­closed last week that per­sonal data of about 143 mil­lion Amer­i­cans was com­pro­mised in a cy­ber­at­tack. Equifax has been sharply crit­i­cized by Congress, state gov­ern­ments and con­sumers. The stock dropped an­other $16.97, or 14.6 per­cent, to $98.99. It traded above $142 last week be­fore news of the at­tack broke.

Med­i­caid pro­gram ad­min­is­tra­tor Cen­tene said it will ex­pand into New York through a $3.75 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Fidelis Care. Its stock jumped $7.28, or 8 per­cent, to $98.16. Cen­tene has ex­panded into sev­eral states in the past year through the Af­ford­able Care Act’s ex­changes.

Ap­ple slipped again. In­vestors ap­peared wor­ried about the $999 price tag of the tenth-an­niver­sary iPhone X as well as its later launch date in early Novem­ber. That could af­fect Ap­ple’s rev­enue in the next few quar­ters. In­vestors seemed to like some of Ap­ple’s plans Tues­day, in­clud­ing new fea­tures that are be­ing added to the Ap­ple Watch. The stock lost $1.21 to $159.65.

Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10year Trea­sury note rose to 2.19 per­cent from 2.17 per­cent.

In other en­ergy trad­ing, heat­ing oil rose 3 cents to $1.77 a gal­lon and whole­sale gaso­line lost 1 cent to $1.65 a gal­lon. Nat­u­ral gas climbed 6 cents to $3.06 per 1,000 cu­bic feet.

Gold lost $4.70 to $1,328 an ounce. Sil­ver de­clined 2 cents to $17.87 an ounce. Cop­per fell 6 cents to $2.98 a pound.

The dol­lar rose to 110.66 yen from 110.11 yen. The euro fell to $1.1873 from $1.1970.

The Ger­man DAX and CAC 40 in France both rose 0.2 per­cent. Lon­don’s FTSE 100 in­dex de­clined 0.1 per­cent. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.4 per­cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng de­clined 0.3 per­cent and the Kospi in South Korea shed 0.2 per­cent.

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