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Stocks Advance; S&P 500 at Record High 08/21 16:03

   The stock market advanced for a fourth straight day Thursday, pushing the 
Standard & Poor's 500 index to a record high.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market advanced for a fourth straight day 
Thursday, pushing the Standard & Poor's 500 index to a record high.

   Investors were encouraged by news that the number of people seeking 
unemployment benefits remains at a multi-year low. Hewlett-Packard rose after 
delivering better results, while Sears plunged after reporting that its loss 
doubled from a year ago.

   The S&P 500 rose 5.86 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,992.37, four points above 
the record close the index set on July 24.

   The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60.36 points, or 0.4 percent, to 
17,039.49. It was the Dow's first close above 17,000 since July 24. The Nasdaq 
composite rose 5.62 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,532.10.

   Hewlett-Packard was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500. The technology giant 
rose $1.88, or 5.4 percent, to $37 after reporting better-than-expected results 
and its first sales increase in nearly three years. HP has been undergoing a 
multi-year restructuring under CEO Meg Whitman, who has laid off employees and 
cut back businesses that aren't profitable.

   Bank of America was also among the market's biggest advancers. The company 
reached a $16.65 billion settlement with the Justice Department over its sale 
of mortgage-backed securities in the months leading up to the financial crisis. 
The settlement is by far the largest deal the Justice Department has reached 
with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown. BofA rose 64 cents, or 4 percent, 
to $16.16.

   Stocks opened higher and remained there throughout the day, although buying 
did pick up in the last hour of trading. Investors were encouraged by a report 
from the Department of Labor that claims for unemployment benefits, a proxy for 
the number of people who recently lost their jobs and are looking for work, 
fell by 14,000 last week to 298,000. The less-volatile four-week average was 
300,750, below the average before the Great Recession.

   Stocks have been rising steadily all month, due to better economic data and 
a cooling of tensions in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq. The S&P 500 is on pace to have 
its best month since February.

   "We've have been able to breathe a sigh of relief that those worst-case 
scenarios have been avoided, at least for the time being," said Ryan Larson, 
head of equity trading with RBC Global Asset Management.

   Investors now turn to Friday, when Fed Chair Janet Yellen will give a speech 
at the Fed's annual conference of central bankers and other policymakers in 
Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Investors will be watching closely for clues into her 
thinking on the timing of interest rate increases.

   Yellen's speech will come two days after the minutes from the Fed's July 
meeting showed that a majority of the central bank's policymakers believe the 
U.S. economy is improving enough for the bank to start raising interest rates 
sooner than previously thought. The debate on when the Fed should begin 
increasing rates, which have been near zero since 2008, has intensified in 
recent months as the Fed winds down its other economic stimulus.

   Overall, it's been a quiet week for the market. Volumes are low as many Wall 
Street workers try to fit in their vacations before trading picks up after 
Labor Day. Thursday was the 10th-slowest trading day of the year and Wednesday 
was the fifth-slowest.

   Benchmark U.S. crude for October delivery rose 51 cents to $93.96 a barrel 
in New York. In metals trading, gold fell $19.80 to $1,275.40 an ounce, silver 
fell eight cents to $19.42 an ounce and copper was little changed at $3.18 a 
pound.

   The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.41 percent from 2.43 
percent the day before.

   In individual companies:

   -- Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar all fell after Family 
Dollar rejected Dollar General's unsolicited $9 billion buyout offer, citing 
antitrust concerns. Also weighing on Family Dollar's decision was a deal Family 
Dollar reached with smaller discount retailer Dollar Tree last month. Dollar 
Tree fell 72 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $54.28, Dollar General fell 15 cents, or 
0.2 percent, to $63.61 and Family Dollar fell 40 cents, or 0.5 percent, to 
$79.41.

   -- Sears Holdings lost $2.57, or 7 percent, to $33.38. The owner of Sears 
and Kmart said it lost $573 million in the last quarter, more than double what 
is lost the year before. It was the struggling company's ninth straight 
quarterly loss. 


(KA)


 
 
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