Major stock indexes hovered slightly above their record closing highs in afternoon trading Wednesday. Traders had their eye on a mix of corporate earnings news, as well as the second day of Congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Oil prices rebounded after an early slide.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose six points, or 0.03 percent, to 18,215 as of 1:10 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up less than one point at 2,115. The Nasdaq composite added nine points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,977.
FED FACTOR: The Dow and S&P 500 closed at record highs on Tuesday after investors were encouraged by remarks from Yellen suggesting that the Fed was not in a hurry to raise interest rates. Yellen noted that the job market is still healing and inflation is low. Lower interest rates make borrowing easier and tend to be a plus for financial markets.
THE QUOTE: “The second day of the Fed chair’s congressional testimony tends to be a repeat of the first day, so I’m not sure we’ll get new information,” said David Lebovitz, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “The market hit a high, so people are consolidating a little bit.”
SECTOR VIEW: Half of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved higher, with consumer discretionary stocks rising the most. Newfield Exploration notched the biggest gain in the index, climbing $4.27, or 13.5 percent, to $35.95. Utilities stocks were the biggest decliners.
HIGH FLYER: Traders cheered Benefitfocus’ latest financial results and news of a 9.9 percent investment from Mercer. The human resources software provider vaulted 62.7 percent. The stock gained $14.40 to $37.36.
DOLLAR DOES IT: Shares in Discount retailer Dollar Tree rose 2.6 percent after the company reported fiscal fourth-quarter results that surpassed Wall Street’s expectations. The stock added $2.04 to $79.51.
IMPROVING, TOO: A day after Home Depot posted strong earnings, rival home-improvement retailer Lowe’s said its profit and revenue increased in the fourth quarter. Lowe’s was down 36 cents to $74.29.
BIG DECLINERS: Chesapeake Energy slumped 9.4 percent after the natural gas company’s fourth-quarter results missed analysts’ expectations. The stock was among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500, sliding $1.87 to $18.01.
CONTROL, ALT, DELETE: Hewlett-Packard tumbled 9.3 percent a day after the computer and printer maker reported fiscal first-quarter sales that fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts. The stock lost $3.58 to $34.91.
CREAKY RESULTS: Shares in Lumber Liquidators Holdings slid 16.7 percent after it reported fourth-quarter results that came in below analysts’ expectations. The hardwood floors retailer fell $11.48 to $57.30.
FALLING FLAT: Boston Beer tumbled 10.2 percent after the brewer of Samuel Adams beer reported worse-than-expected fourth-quarter results late Tuesday. It also issued a disappointing financial outlook. The stock lost $31.66 to $279.05.
OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent, while Germany’s DAX was flat. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.2 percent from its record closing high on Tuesday. In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged down 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 61 cents to $49.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 17 cents on Tuesday to $49.28.
BONDS: U.S. government bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 1.98 percent.
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