US stocks indexes edge higher; oil heads lower


By ALEX VEIGA

AP Business Writer

U.S. stocks edged mostly higher in early trading Thursday, led by utilities and phone companies. Banks fell, and the price of crude oil was headed lower. Trading was light ahead of the New Year’s Day holiday.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 28 points, or 0.1 percent, to 19,862 as of 10:02 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,253. The Nasdaq composite fell 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,435.

BIG GAINER: Newmont Mining climbed 3.8 percent, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 index. The stock added $1.19 to $33.97.

CHIPS ARE DOWN: Nvidia slumped 4.7 percent, on pace for the steepest loss in the S&P 500 index. The chipmaker’s shares have tripled in value this year. They were down $5.05 to $104.10 on Thursday.

FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Sears surged 5.5 percent after the struggling retailer said it obtained a letter of credit that the company can use to fund its operations. The stock gained 46 cents to $8.65.

UNEMPLOYMENT WATCH: The Labor Department said fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, continuing a nearly two-year trend that suggests a solid job market. Weekly requests for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. Over the past year, the number of people collecting benefits has fallen almost 5 percent to 2.1 million.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Germany’s DAX was down 0.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 was 0.2 percent lower. Britain’s FTSE 100, which ended the previous session at a record close, was down 0.1 percent. Earlier, in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.3 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi inched up 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 12 cents at $53.94 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 19 cents to $57.15 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.49 percent from 2.51 percent late Wednesday. In currency trading, the dollar fell to 116.72 yen from 117.19 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.0453 from $1.0407.

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