US stocks rise as energy companies rally


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Energy companies jumped with the price of oil Wednesday, but overall, stocks finished only slightly higher as a quiet week of trading continued.

The price of U.S. crude oil jumped 3 percent as fuel stockpiles kept shrinking, and that made investors more optimistic about energy company profits. Strong earnings from video game maker Electronic Arts and chipmaker Nvidia helped technology stocks move up. However, weak results from Priceline and Disney hurt consumer-focused companies, and health care stocks also stumbled as drug companies fell.

Investors didn’t react much to President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday evening. U.S. stocks also had little reaction to the French presidential election last weekend, although European indexes climbed following the win by centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

“It’s almost as if the market has become numb,” said Julian Emanuel, an equity strategist for UBS. “Investors are interpreting this as more noise.”

Emanuel said investors are focused on economic growth and the Trump administration’s business-friendly agenda. Until they have a clearer understanding of how well the economy is doing and whether Trump’s policies will be implemented, he said investors may just wait and see, in which case stocks will stay in the range they’ve traded in for the past few months.

Oil prices made big gains as reports showed U.S. crude stockpiles dropped by 5.2 million barrels last week. That was bigger than analysts expected. Crude inventories are returning to more normal levels after they swelled to record highs the past few years.

Benchmark U.S. crude surged $1.45, or 3.2 percent, to $47.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $1.49, or 3.1 percent, to $50.22 a barrel in London

Crude oil prices have fallen in recent weeks as investors wondered if the members of OPEC and other oil-producing countries will be able to limit production and support prices. U.S. oil has traded between around $45 and $55 a barrel this year as investors worried about oil prices and profits at energy companies. The S&P 500’s energy sector has dropped 10 percent in 2017.

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