Stock indexes near records as car makers, retailers rise


Associated Press

NEW YORK

U.S. stocks climbed Wednesday as investors bought shares of companies focused on consumers, including automakers and retailers. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished a single point below its all-time high.

General Motors and Ford jumped as car companies reported generally strong sales for the month of December. Companies that mine for metals and make chemicals and other materials climbed as the dollar receded a bit from its recent highs. Small-company stocks picked up where they left off in 2017 as the Russell 2000 index outpaced other major indexes and missed a record close by a whisker.

Investors snapped up consumer-focused stocks that haven’t done much celebrating since the election, such as apparel and accessories retailers and discount store chains. Urban Outfitters is down about 11 percent since the election and Gap has fallen almost that much.

“They were afterthoughts in a lot of respects,” said Julian Emanuel, an equity strategist. But Emanuel said he expects those stocks to rise this year because consumer confidence is high.

Companies that sell clothes, jewelry, athletic gear and discount goods have fallen or lagged behind the market over the past two months. That changed a bit Wednesday. Gap rose 72 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $24.20. Discount retailer Dollar Tree, which has slumped since late November, picked up $2, or 2.6 percent, to $79.45.

Oil prices bounced back from losses. Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 93 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $53.26 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 99 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $56.46 a barrel in London.

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