Oil prices rise, natural gas prices fall
NEW YORK _ U.S. stocks are edging higher in midday trading on corporate earnings news and rising oil prices. Utilities made the biggest gains. Mining companies rose with the price of gold.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average gained 46 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 16,686 as of 12:28 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 5 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,953. The Nasdaq composite rose 20 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,610.
On the last trading day of February, the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their first monthly gains since November.
DIGGING FOR GOLD: The February gain has been led by the materials sector of the S&P 500, which includes mining companies that have been helped by a surge in the price of precious metals. The price of gold has climbed 10.5 per cent this month and silver is up 4 per cent. On Monday, mining and oil and gas company Freeport-McMoRan added 29 cents, or 3.9 per cent, to $7.72, while Newmont Mining advanced 58 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $25.94.
Chemical companies also contributed to the rally in the materials sector. Dow Chemical picked up 77 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to $49.51 and LyondellBasell Industries rose 97 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $81.14.
SHINY SAFETY NET: Gold is seen as a safe investment when the market gets rough, and Steven Dunn, the head of ETF Securities’ U.S. division, said investors are now more worried about the global markets than they have been in several years.
“When there is turmoil in the world, people do come back to gold as sort of that safe port,” he said.
The price of gold rose 1 per cent to $1,233.20 an ounce. Over the last two weeks gold has traded near it highest price in a year. Silver prices also edged higher, rising 0.9 per cent to $14.85 an ounce.
OVERSEAS NEWS: Policymakers at a weekend meeting of the Group of 20 rich and developing countries promised to use “all tools” at their disposal to bolster weak global growth, but they didn’t announce any specific moves. Some relief emerged with the news that China’s monetary authorities had cut the amount of deposits that banks have to keep in reserve at the central bank. That should free up cash for banks to lend. The government also guided the yuan lower.
SIGNET SPARKLES: Signet Jewelers climbed after it signalled better results for its most recent quarter. The jewelry retailer forecast a larger profit and better sales than analysts expected. The stock jumped $11.38, or 11.5 per cent, to $110.51.
DRUGMAKERS TUMBLE: Endo International lost $9.09, or 17.2 per cent, to $43.86 after saying it will wind down its Astora women’s health business. Valeant Pharmaceuticals slid after the company withdrew its financial forecasts and said it’s not ready to release preliminary fourth-quarter results. The stock gave up $5.65, or 7 per cent, to $75.
Elsewhere, Mallinckrodt stock fell $2.57, or 3.7 per cent, to $66.67.
TASER SURGES: Taser International jumped $2.11, or 12.1 per cent, to $19.59 after the stun gun maker’s profit and revenue topped estimates.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 89 cents, or 2.7 per cent, to $33.67 a barrel in New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, added $1.03, or 2.9 per cent, to $36.47 a barrel in London.
Natural gas prices skidded 4.5 per cent as investors worried that demand will fall in March. In a research note, Commodity Weather Group said it expects a “super warm pattern” to start in about a week. That will lead to less demand for heat as the winter comes to a close. Natural gas fell to $1.71 per 1,000 cubic feet.
EUROPE AND ASIA: Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2 per cent, while the FTSE 100 index of British shares was unchanged. The CAC-40 in France rose 0.9 per cent. The yen’s strength weighed on Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225, which fell 1 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 2.9 per cent after the yuan’s decline. Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.2 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.3 per cent.
NRG POWERS DOWN: NRG Energy slumped on a disappointing earnings report. Its stock fell 38 cents, or 3.4 per cent, to $10.70.
LUMBER STUMBLE: Lumber Liquidators Holdings continued to slide after it reported a bigger-than-expected loss and less revenue than analysts expected. The stock lost 58 cents, or 5.2 per cent, to $10.53.
EUROPE DEFLATION: Stock markets in Europe were helped somewhat by news that inflation across the 19-country eurozone turned negative in February as consumer prices fell. The euro fell because traders expect further monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank at its meeting on March 10.
CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 1.74 from 1.76 per cent. The euro fell to $1.0865 from $1.0928 and the dollar fell to 112.97 yen from 113.90 yen.
The Canadian Press